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Monday, December 9, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

A Grip on Sports: Election Day is a key benchmark … It’s when college hoops kicks in for real

Gonzaga guard Joel Ayayi (11) looks to pass during the second half of a college basketball game, Fri., Nov. 1, 2019, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Joel Ayayi (11) looks to pass during the second half of a college basketball game, Fri., Nov. 1, 2019, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We have a few thoughts on this election day that have nothing whatsoever to do with any candidates or issues. However, if you didn’t get your heartbeat into anaerobic territory going through the Washington ballot this week, we would be surprised. There were so many advisory questions my right arm was sore after filling in the little boxes.

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• College basketball begins for real tonight all over the nation. Most of the games on the schedule, including Gonzaga’s versus visiting Alabama State, count in team’s record, unlike the spate of exhibition contests we’ve seen lately.

Of the local Division I schools, only Washington State isn’t playing tonight at home (the Kyle Smith-led Cougars open Thursday night, hosting Seattle U), which makes the season kickoff even more fun.

We’ll be back here tonight with our TV Take on the Gonzaga coverage, which is being broadcast on KHQ and SWX, with the local crew.

The Zags had little trouble with Lewis-Clark State last weekend, even with only nine healthy scholarship players to put on the court. The Hornets should be more of a test, though not in the way of many of GU’s nonconference opponents.

• The overlap with football season just seems to get longer and longer.

Not at Gonzaga mind you, where football hasn’t been around since FDR was president. But Washington State plays football this Saturday at California, as four regular season games remain on the Cougars’ schedule.

To make a bowl game for the fifth consecutive year, WSU will have to at least split them. That didn’t seem all that tough a task a month ago, when Oregon State and Stanford, the two schools that will visit Pullman, were playing so poorly. But the Beavers are the Pac-12 most improved team from last season (and maybe throughout this one), while Stanford is healthier than it was then, mainly at quarterback.

A win in Memorial Stadium would be a big boost for the Cougars’ bowl hopes. A loss would go a long way toward allowing their fans to concentrate on hoops in December.

• I had some other things to do last night, so I didn’t watch the Monday night NFL game. Turns out I missed an exciting stretch. And yes, I am referring to the cat that got loose on the field.

The football between the Giants and the Cowboys? Not sure I missed anything important there. If you are of a certain age, you can remember when Monday Night Football was a big deal. If you were in school, you raced to get your homework done in time. If you were working, you figured out how to get done in time to either get a decent seat at the watering hole or get dinner out of the way with your significant other. And if you were retired, you set your alarm, so as not to oversleep from your third nap of the day.

But now? Crickets most Monday nights.

Hey, that might actually work. Cricket races at halftime. But not at Meadowlands. I’m pretty sure the feral cats have taken care of the stadium’s once-healthy cricket population.

•••

WSU: After a bye week spent in the Bahamas or Mexico or somewhere else warm – that’s a guess, not any inside information – Theo Lawson is tan, rested and ready to finish up his football coverage. He starts by taking a first look at California, Saturday evening’s opponent. Then he takes a quick look at possible kickoff times for Nov. 16. … That taken care off, he has a story on what’s been ailing the Cougars. The inability to finish off an opponent has been a big difference this season. … In player news yesterday, Theo has a story on Jamire Calvin probably redshirting and a recruit switching their “commitment” to WSU. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, what’s better for the conference’s playoff chances, Alabama or LSU winning? … We may know what are the best athletic director jobs in the conference these days. One of those in the better spots still isn’t happy about late starts. … Yes, Oregon State is improved. But this week the Beavers face a Washington team bent on bouncing back from a tough stretch. … This time of year, every football team has injuries. Oregon seems to have a lot at running back. … Colorado may not be winning but Mel Tucker still believes in his quarterback. … Utah has seen improved play at that position all season. … Penalties have been hurting Arizona State recently. … What’s hurt Arizona has been getting away from being a defensive-first program of years past. … Yes, there is basketball news everywhere, what with the games beginning tonight. There are stories from Washington, a couple from Oregon and Oregon State, including the OSU women losing to the U.S. National Team last night, young Utah, really young USC, UCLA and Arizona, which has gone through a tough offseason. Speaking of that, Larry Scott just wants closure.

Gonzaga: Before we get to tonight’s game, a bunch of former GU players gathered last night at the Bing Crosby Theater to join in the fundraising effort for Quentin Hall. The World Court event also featured Lisa Fortier and Tommy Lloyd talking about Gonzaga’s worldwide recruiting efforts. Dan Thompson has the story. … Jim Meehan covers the preview of tonight’s game and looks at the key matchup between the schools. … Killian Tillie isn’t able to play just yet, but that hasn’t kept the senior off a couple award watch lists. Jim has that story, as well as talking with Larry Weir for the latest Press Box pod. … Jim also passes along the news one of Gonzaga's top targets, Jalen Suggs, will announce his college decision after the first of the year. … The women don’t play until Sunday, when they host Cal State Bakersfield. Jim Allen has a story. … Around the WCC, the BYU men open the season with Cal State Fullerton. Gonzaga transfer Jesse Wade is dealing with a knee injury and could miss the season. … USF has one of the nation’s youngest head coaches.

Seahawks: Though some things went right against Tampa Bay, the defense knows it must play better down the stretch. … Pete Carroll is not setting expectations for Josh Gordon. … DK Metcalf played well down the stretch. … San Francisco will present unique challenges for the Hawks.

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• If you are wondering, some of the local golf courses are still open. A family member played yesterday and thought it was a beautiful day to lose a few balls. I declined. Too much yard work to do. Then I got involved dealing with a laptop issue and spent all day backing up data and running diagnostic programs. I should have played golf. Even flailing around the woods would have been more fun. Until later …

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