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Sports >  Area sports

Grip on Sports: Here’s a little something to get you prepared before your day in front of the television set

Gonzaga coach Mark Few watches his Zags during practice, Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few watches his Zags during practice, Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Today and tomorrow are two of the best days of the year for the sports fan. Very little compares. So we will get out of the way quickly. Read on.

••••••••••

• Gonzaga carries the Inland Northwest banner – if our area had a flag, what would it look like? – into battle in Boise this morning. I’m about 92.3 percent sure the Zags will win, but I’ve learned to never say never as far as college basketball is concerned.

After all, we all witnessed GU in the Final Four last season, when many in the area felt that would never happen. It did. So if UNC Greensboro shot the Zags out of the NCAA Tournament today, it would be surprising but not unprecedented. After all, a 13 seed has defeated a four seed 26 times in the past 30 years, though only fourth-seeded California, beset by turmoil in 2016, has lost in the last three tournaments.

Even if the Zags, a 12.5-point favorite, don’t cover, they still should win. Which is, really, all that matters the next few weeks.

For the Bulldogs to move on, they will need to do three things:

– Take care of the ball;

– Run Greensboro off the 3-point line, where it averages 27 attempts a game;

– Make sure their bigs touch the ball a lot.

One person who will play an oversized role in all of those elements is point guard Josh Perkins. The junior has played up-and-down throughout his career but one aspect of his time here is consistent: If he plays well, so do the Zags.

So watch Perkins this morning. If he’s focused, engaged and making smart decisions, the Spartans are in trouble. If he’s not, then expect a battle throughout.

• A gambling website which draws my eye occasionally – only so I can be a better reporter – had an interesting fact this morning. A majority of bettors believe UNC Greensboro will cover. It’s close, but more money in Las Vegas has been put on the Spartans than Gonzaga.

•••

Gonzaga: You probably want to delve right into our coverage of today’s game, which includes a preview from Jim Meehan as well as his look at the Spartans’ most potent weapon, the expected fan turnout and the teams’ NCAA experience, but before you do, pause for a second. And then read John Blanchette’s column. It’s about college hoops these days. … Whitney Ogden covers the fan experience in Boise, which hasn’t been kind to GU over the years. She also introduces us to a UNC Greensboro inside player. … Theo Lawson’s subjects range from Johnathan Williams’ flexibility to players’ connections to the host site, from the Spartans’ coach and his favorite all-time Zag to who America thinks will win. … Rob Curley touches on the troubles of those of you who have to work and try to watch the game. I remember those days. … Dan Pelle has a photo report from yesterday’s practice and media events. … The folks in the office put together this really cool-looking graphic about the game. … Larry Weir has a Press Box podcast with Jim Meehan talking about the Zags. … We have a couple of stories from Greensboro for you to read if you want. And one from Boise. … Injuries, especially one to star Jill Barta, helped the Zag women develop into the team they are today. That, and some help from a trio of freshmen. Jim Allen has both stories. … The baseball team lost to host Seattle University. … Around the WCC, BYU’s season is over after it lost at Stanford. The Cougars were hit by more injuries this week and then knocked around by the Cardinal.

WSU: The NCAA Tournament isn’t being kind to the Pac-12, as Arizona State ensured the conference will have just one team in the round of 64, losing a lead late and falling to Syracuse in Dayton. It made one kid cry and the TV cameras caught him. … The NIT has been much kinder, though even more contentious. Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak was ejected in their home win last night and tossed things around as he left the court. … Washington moved on by holding off Boise State. The Huskies will travel to Saint Mary’s for the second round. … Oregon will travel to Marquette for round two. … Only at UCLA? The Bruins’ early NCAA exit has Steve Alford in the hot seat. … Arizona opens NCAA play today in Boise against a team that reminds Sean Miller of someone. … There is spring football news from Utah and Colorado and Oregon.

Chiefs: Spokane has plateaued a bit, losing a home contest last night 6-3 against Seattle. Kevin Dudley was in the Arena and has this story.

Mariners: The M’s have a lot of injuries. So now they aren’t taking any chances. Anyone feels a twinge, boom, they are out of the game. … If you want to laugh, watch the M’s commercials for the season. I recommend the hair flip with Kyle Seager and Taylor Motter.

Seahawks: Free agency started for real yesterday and the Hawks did sign someone. Maybe not the big name you were looking for, but a long name. … They lost a gamble yesterday as well. And a couple players. … Seattle may still be looking for a tight end. … The price for Earl Thomas is high.

Sounders: Speaking of injuries – is the city of Seattle cursed? – the Sounders suffered a couple more and then lost at Chivas, 3-0, so their Champions League adventure is over. … If they would have moved on, the next home match would have been played in Safeco.

•••       

• We’re done here. Mainly because we, like you, are ready for a great day of watching NCAA hoops. And we have to work. Don’t forget to check back in this space. Our TV Take will be on the S-R’s website after the game. Until later …

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