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Saturday, November 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: From Killian Tillie to prep football, there is a lot to cover on this Thursday

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Killian Tillie (33) grabs the ball from Fairleigh Dickinson Knights guard Brandon Powell (10) during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019, at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Killian Tillie (33) grabs the ball from Fairleigh Dickinson Knights guard Brandon Powell (10) during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019, at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s another crowded Thursday, so let’s get right to it. From Zags to Cougars to Eagles to preps, there is a lot to cover.

•••••••

• Killian Tillie’s potential has always been on display. The near-7-foot forward blocks shots, is deadly from beyond the arc and is athletic enough to be a matchup problem on both ends of the court. When he plays.

Over his Gonzaga career, the senior from France has missed way too many games for anyone’s liking, including his own. He enters his (possibly) final season in Spokane once again dealing with an injury, this time a balky knee that underwent some recent cleanup.

Still, when he’s healthy, he’s among the nation’s best players.

He was so recognized this week when CBS Sports named him to their All-American team, albeit the third one. That means the organization’s media members believe Tillie is one of the 15 best players in college basketball.

Yep, sounds about right.

• When a former player sounds off about an odd midseason coaching change, claiming dissent within the ranks, it probably will go unnoticed, right?

Uh, no.

Yesterday, Mike Leach and other members of his coaching staff responded to Connor Halliday’s comments on a recent podcast. In them, Halliday said he was informed there was bad blood between recently departed defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys and one of the men elevated into his spot, cornerbacks coach Darcel McBath.

Leach and his chief of staff Dave Emerick refuted that yesterday in no uncertain terms.

When asked about it yesterday, Leach said “it’s not true.”

Emerick, speaking on a podcast, said “none of it is really based in any kind of fact,” which is a longer way of saying the same thing Leach said.

• The All-Big Sky basketball team was released yesterday and Eastern Washington was the only school with two players named to the six-player team.

Mason Peatling and Jacob Davison are expected to play huge parts in the Eagles’ season, one the program hopes includes one more win at the end of the season.

The past two years, Eastern has lost the conference tournament’s championship games, both to Montana, and fell one game short of the NCAA tournament.

• Believe it or not, the high school football season is in the stretch run. The regular season has just three more weekends before the playoffs.

Among the larger schools in the area, there are no dominant, undefeated teams. That’s pretty unusual around these parts, where there is usually at least one school among the favorites for State large-school titles on both sides of the border.

•••

WSU: Theo has a few stories for you, including the one on Leach’s comments. He also covers the loss of a (formerly) committed receiver and answers questions with his weekly mailbag. … Theo also spoke with Larry Weir yesterday for the latest Press Box pod. … Dan Thompson adds to the Cougar coverage with this story based on the number of receptions by position. … Ryan Collingwood focuses on one of WSU’s all-time greats, Morgan Weaver, in his weekly soccer notebook. … Back to football, Colorado's pass defense is as bad as it gets. And now the Buffs face the Air Raid. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the most important newcomer to the conference is Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. … The rivalry with Oregon usually features a little of everything for Washington. Big plays. Bad weather. Crazy fans. It will again this week. … There is a game tonight, though there isn't a lot clamor for UCLA's visit to Stanford. The Cardinal have won 11 consecutive times in the series and Chip Kelly's team is still in a slow rebuild. … USC faces Arizona this week with its freshman quarterback healthy and happy. The secondary isn't. … Oregon State is still dealing with the fallout from the Utah blowout loss as it prepares to face California. … Arizona State, with Utah on the schedule this week, is featured on the HBO reality show this week. Next up is Washington State. … In basketball news, Washington's home games will probably be a little louder and messier this season.

Gonzaga: The Tillie news is just part of what Jim Meehan has to offer today. He also has a story on Corey Kispert and Washington State’s CJ Elleby being named to a preseason watch list. … Jim covers the Zags’ academic success as well in this piece.

EWU: Ryan has this story on the preseason all-conference basketball honors, including Eastern’s Gina Marxen named to the women’s team. … Around the Big Sky, there is an arms race of sorts going on in the conference these days. It has to do with football facilities. … Montana will try to do what Montana State couldn't: defeat Sacramento State. … The Weber State defense is doing what its supposed to do. … Cal Poly is going to fight the NCAA on sanctions.

Idaho: The XFL draft continued yesterday with area players being selected, led by former Vandal kicker and punter Austin Rehkow. Ryan has more in this story.

Preps: Before we get to the football news, Dave Nichols has a story on the upcoming state slowpitch playoffs, with Mead hoping to return to the tournament. … Dave adds a notebook with news from a variety of sports. … In football news, Dave and Sam Adams make their picks while Steve Christilaw has a story on Central Valley’s rebound from an early loss to Coeur d’Alene.

Seahawks: Jarran Reed is back. That should help the pass rush. … The Ravens improved their secondary this week. Of course, Earl Thomas is part of it. Pete Carroll stayed positive about Thomas this week. … Will Dissly has surgery today.

Sounders: Seattle's playoff run begins Saturday at home against FC Dallas. It's a one-and-done scenario.

•••       

• One thing about fall. The chores never seem to stop. If it isn’t raking leaves, it’s blowing out sprinklers. If it isn’t trimming trees, it’s picking up after the dogs. Wait, that last one is a year-round task. Until later …

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