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Sports >  EWU basketball

TV Take: Saturday’s college hoops slate proved sports are more ‘subject to change’ than ever before

Dec. 5, 2020 Updated Sat., Dec. 5, 2020 at 9:44 p.m.

By Vince Grippi For The Spokesman-Review

Most times it is really cool to be “in the know.” Other times, not so much.

Saturday morning belongs with the latter.

The soul-crushing news No. 1 Gonzaga’s early season showdown with second-ranked Baylor – the 43rd such 1-versus-2 matchup in the Associated Press poll’s history – was canceled broke just before 9 a.m. That allowed for plenty of time to pivot the day’s schedule.

But what if we weren’t “in the know?”

What if we sat down at 10 in front of our 64-inch 4K TV, all ready to watch the team from Spokane destroy overrated Baylor and, poof, nothing. An empty Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Oh, the indignation. We could have been on the phone to that weaselly Spokesman-Review sports editor to let him know his “On the Air” listings were wrong. Again. Wouldn’t that have been satisfying?

Sure, we wouldn’t have been able to watch Tom McCarthy and Bill Raftery call the showdown from Indianapolis, but a little righteous indignation would have made the morning better. And ease the disappointment.

What they saw …

• As the cameras panned through the Bankers Life stands, Adam Zucker’s voice wafted through the speakers. Within seconds, he and New York studio mate Clark Kellogg and – remotely – Seth Davis explained what happened.

“We were hoping to tip off our college basketball season today with a showdown with top-ranked Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor, but that game will not take place today,” Zucker said, “after one player and one nonplayer with the Gonzaga program tested positive for COVID-19.”

“2020, once again, proving to be a very formidable foe,” Davis said following introductions. “The sport is going to have to be nimble on this.”

Indeed. But canceling an anticipated, maybe the most anticipated, nonconference college basketball game the morning of? Yep.

“Terribly deflating and disappointing,” Kellogg added, “and a real gut-shot for us that this game is canceled. Hopefully, just postponed. But that’s the inevitability of the landscape we’re playing games in. The pandemic is ruling and making us have to be adjustable and flexible.”

• Kellogg was right. Everyone is hoping the game is just postponed, not off for good. When CBS returned to Indianapolis, McCarthy and Raftery, standing with the 2021 NCAA Division I championship trophy between them, focused the time with the coaches on the question on whether this game would be rescheduled.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few did his best to assure viewers it would be.

“I absolutely do think we will” see it, Few said in response to Raftery’s first question. “This is a season where we just have to have open minds and be flexible and be agile. … We’ll find a way to play this at some point.”

Later, Baylor coach Scott Drew explained why he thought the teams would play.

“Our guys came back to college for these reasons, to play games like this,” he said. “They trust us to get them quality games.”

“There is a resiliency that all us coaches realize that our players have,” Few added, mentioning the COVID-19 protocols the players have to deal with. “And I think they really trust Scott and myself that we’ll get this game going. We’ll play again. It’s just going to be in a different time.

“Which, again, we all feel horribly about.”

As do both teams’ fans.

What we saw …

• The cancellation (or postponement) opened up a couple of hours of TV watching time. And guess who stepped in to fill it? Eastern Washington.

How neighborly of the Eagles. Actually, EWU had stepped in this week to fill a hole in Arizona’s schedule. It just happened to be set for a 11 a.m. tipoff.

Luckily, we don’t have DirecTV, so we were able to watch Ted Robinson and Matt Muehlebach describe the action on the Pac-12 Network.

“Crazy, Ted,” said Muehlebach, the 1990 Pac-12 Tournament MVP playing for Arizona. “We’re holding our breath every game.”

Eastern knows it, after losing games to the virus. And so does Arizona. Not to mention Gonzaga and Baylor.

The lack of prep time was evident, as Robinson called Tanner Groves “Graves” the first time the Shadle Park High graduate touched the ball. And he misidentified Tanner’s brother Jake after a dunk. He got better, though, as the Eagles led 43-38 at the half before fading down the stretch in a 70-67 loss.

It may not have been No. 1 vs. No. 2, but Saturday it had to do.

• With a 2-hour block to fill, CBS pivoted quickly and showed the 2019 championship game between Virginia and Texas Tech. For some Inland Northwest hoop fans who wear crimson regularly, that might have been an upgrade. Depending, of course, on if they have buried the Tony Bennett hatchet by now.

• The pickings between 10 and 11 a.m. were pretty slim. Who in the Spokane area was really excited to watch Texas blow out Kansas State or Ohio State handcuff Michigan State? And that’s just football.

The one basketball game that was scheduled to run even earlier than the Gonzaga/Baylor game was also canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. North Carolina State reported a positive coronavirus test and the matchup with Connecticut was canceled Friday night.

• Cancellations are part of college sports these days. Because of that, and other more intricate issues, The Spokesman-Review’s “On the Air” listings have been off more than usual lately. For a while, the ones on the website failed to update in a timely manner. That’s been taken care of, according to sports editor Ralph Walter. The in-print product, with its earlier deadlines, is a little more problematic, what with the late changes, but Walter said every effort is being made to keep them up-to-date.

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