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Thursday, August 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: If you gave up watching the Zags for Lent, you finally can break your vow this evening

Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke (15) reaches for a rebound but Pepperdine Waves forward Kessler Edwards (15) gets there first during the second half of a college basketball game, Thurs., Feb. 21, 2019, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke (15) reaches for a rebound but Pepperdine Waves forward Kessler Edwards (15) gets there first during the second half of a college basketball game, Thurs., Feb. 21, 2019, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Gonzaga basketball withdrawal symptoms are easy to identify. One of the more prominent is spending your Sunday arguing if the double bye the Zags received in the WCC tournament will help or hurt tonight. Read on.

••••••••••

• We won’t find out the answer to that question until sometime after 6 p.m. tonight, when the regular-season champion Zags tip off against seventh-seeded Pepperdine at the Orleans Arena. The game is on ESPN and my new old friend Dick Vitale is on the call with Bob Wischusen and Sean Farnham (more on that in a moment).

What we do know is the WCC’s plan to help Gonzaga’s (and others’) NCAA resume by not having the league’s best play its worst in the tournament – hurting the old RPI or the new-this-season NET ranking even with a win – has been blasted to bits. The idea was to have the top two teams avoid all the low-rated riffraff with byes to the semifinals. It didn't work, thanks to strong runs by eighth-seeded Pepperdine and seventh-seeded USD.

Pepperdine’s NET ranking heading into tonight’s game is an awful 166. That’s even after the Waves rolled into the tournament semifinals with three consecutive wins. On the other side of the bracket, Saint Mary’s, which needs a signature win to help its bubble status, won’t get it tonight against San Diego. The Toreros are better than Pepperdine but are still 102 in the NCAA’s Net.

So much for big semifinal matchups.

(As a quick aside, how bad has the Pac-12 been this season? Really bad, if the NET rankings are to be believed. Saint Mary’s, which finished a distance second to GU in the WCC, is ranked 37th this morning. Washington, which ran away with the Pac-12 regular season title, is 38th, and tops in the conference but fifth among teams from west of the Rockies.)

The West Coast Conference didn’t want this, that’s for sure. The Zags have nothing to gain tonight – except momentum – and everything to lose. If the unthinkable happens and Pepperdine scores the upset, Gonzaga could easily drop from first in the NET (and a presumptive No. 1 seed) to out of the top four. Kiss a top seed goodbye.

• I was at basketball practice yesterday when Vitale decided to tweet something about the Zags and their success. He tagged me in the tweet and my phone blew up with notifications of the likes, retweets and responses.

(If you don’t understand those last two sentences, you have my sympathies, but they are in English and actually do make sense if you have a working knowledge of the Twitterverse. If not, then I’m sure it reads like Chinese.)

I will say this. Having Dick Vitale tag you in a tweet is pretty darn impressive to 14-year-old college basketball fans.

After a little editing this morning, it is now third among the accomplishments listed on my resume.

•••

Gonzaga: Tonight’s game with Pepperdine needs a preview, right? Jim Meehan has one for you as well as the key matchup. …. Jim Allen has the same for the women’s noon game with Saint Mary’s, a preview and a key matchup. As for the Zags’ chances for a top-four seed, it had to be helped by Stanford’s win over Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. After all, GU has a win over the Cardinal this year. … Around the WCC, there are a lot of questions swirling throughout the BYU program after its loss to San Diego. If the Cougars don’t pay for a postseason tournament, they could end up with less than 20 wins for the first time in Dave Rose’s tenure.

WSU: Robert Franks is one of those rare modern college basketball players who improved throughout his four-year career. Theo Lawson talked with his teammates for this look at his five most important games. … Around the Pac-12, Arizona hopes to have everyone healthy before the tournament starts. … Colorado is one of the hottest teams and plays another hot team. … Washington isn't one of the hottest anymore. …. The Pac-12 women’s tournament ended yesterday and the champion was Stanford. Yep, the Cardinal defeated Oregon in the title game.

Preps: Gonzaga Prep’s Anton Watson was named the Seattle Times State player of the year. Another Gonzaga U. signee, Kittitas’ Brock Ravet, is also on the newspaper’s all-state first team.

Mariners: After another awful outing, the M’s officially have a Felix problem. Felix Hernandez isn’t the pitcher he once was and he doesn’t seem to recognize that fact. This could get really ugly quickly. … The M’s lost the game Hernandez started yesterday and then were tied in the ninth in the other split-squad contest.

•••       

• We will be back this evening with our TV Take from Gonzaga’s semifinal game against Pepperdine. Until later …

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