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Monday, September 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: As more details emerge, college basketball’s most recent scandal threatens to derail the postseason

Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats lost all three games in the Bahamas. (File photo / Associated Press)
Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats lost all three games in the Bahamas. (File photo / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It was hard to get out of bed this morning. But it was probably harder for Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller. Read on.

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• Late last evening ESPN published a report on the FBI’s probe into college basketball recruiting. The report implicated Miller in the pay-to-play scandal that has slowly strangled college basketball this season.

According to ESPN’s sources with knowledge of the investigation, the FBI has wiretaps between Miller and Christian Dawkins, who has been part of the investigation since the early stages.

The tapes allegedly show Miller discussing a payment of $100,000 to ensure Deandre Ayton, the Wildcats’ star freshman post, would attend Arizona.

This information comes on the heels of a Yahoo report yesterday concerning evidence detailing payments to players while they were in college. Washington’s Markelle Fultz and Utah’s Kyle Kuzma were among those listed in the paperwork.

With four assistant coaches, including from Arizona and USC, already under indictment, this investigation seems ready to pull down the underpinnings of big-time college hoops, mainly recruiting.

On the one hand there is the prevalent nature of the money, with players from schools all over the nation mentioned in the Yahoo report. On the other there is blatant disregard for the rules, as exhibited within the recordings ESPN cited.

It’s not just a stain on the game, it threatens to undermine the entire NCAA tournament this year.

The organization just made Louisville vacate a title due to a recruiting scandal. How will it deal with schools such as Arizona, which would obviously be ineligible if these allegations prove true?

And what if you are a school that is clean and have to face someone like the Wildcats? You lose as Ayton gets 25 and 15, and then, a year later, it turns out the allegations were true. Your chance of having a deep run in the tournament was derailed by a school with total disregard for the rules you have followed faithfully.

It’s a conundrum for the NCAA all right.

Between now and when March Madness begins, there will be a special type of madness in the media and within the organization’s offices. More allegations will emerge. The NCAA will have to scramble to determine the validity. And the basketball committee will have to weigh it all when making its selections.

Whatever is decided, it will be ripe for second-guessing. And no matter who wins this year’s title, the scandal’s stink will hover over the awards ceremony and beyond.

•••

WSU: It’s not often recently Washington State has been able to sweep a Pac-12 road series. But that opportunity is available today at Stanford. Theo Lawson has a preview of the Cougars game with the Cardinal. … The women lost to California in Pullman last night. … Stanford has a secret weapon when it faces opponents at home. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, it would be interesting to be in Eugene tonight. Arizona is trying to put on an air of normalcy, but there are calls for Miller’s job after the allegations. Besides, star Allonzo Trier is suspended for a failed drug test. The Ducks just need to get a win to keep their NCAA hopes alive. … Washington has trouble with the Pac-12’s bigger players. … Utah seems to have made a better NCAA case, but can the Utes make it? … The scandal seems to entwine USC at every turn. … UCLA’s NCAA hopes are fading despite Aaron Holiday’s play. … Arizona State is receiving some big help from a freshman. … Finally, maybe the scandal will be a good thing for college hoops. Maybe the NCAA will make some changes.

Gonzaga: Sole possession of the West Coast Conference regular season title is at stake tonight in Provo. Jim Meehan will be there as the Zags face their recent last-game-of-the-regular-season nemesis BYU. He has a preview of the game and a look at whom GU must contain. … Larry Weir’s Press Box podcast features a conversation about Rui Hachimura. … The Gonzaga women will finish their regular season at home this afternoon. Whitney Ogden previews the game with BYU. … It will be the final game for fifth-year senior Emma Wolfrum, whose career at GU has been derailed by major injuries. Jim Allen tells her interesting story. … If Gonzaga is going to lose a baseball game, this is the school to lose to. … Around the WCC, BYU is locked into third in the conference standings.

Chiefs: It was an offensive eruption last night in the Arena, with Spokane routing Prince George 9-2. Kevin Dudley has the story.

Preps: It was a busy night around the state in basketball as the regional round of the playoffs kicked off. At University, Gonzaga Prep cruised to an easy win over Sunnyside and Freeman held off Cascade Christian. Dave Nichols has both those stories. … Lewis and Clark’s boys had little trouble with Bellarmine Prep at West Valley. Greg Lee has that coverage. … The LC girls also breezed as we can offer a roundup of other girls action. … The Idaho state wrestling tournament began last night and Post Falls broke out big on the first night.

Mariners: A baseball game was played yesterday. The M’s won, 3-2. Spring training is officially on. … Two pitchers threw who will be battling for a rotation spot.

Seahawks: Seattle announced its complete 2018 coaching staff.

Sounders: Jordan Morris was injured Thursday night and it could be bad. If it is, it’s a huge blow to Seattle’s season.

•••       

• The U.S. men won the gold medal in curling last night. We all knew American men were good at throwing stones but who knew they could sweep that well? Until later …

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