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Tuesday, April 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: After last night’s split-personality games, the weekend’s college basketball matchups loom even larger

Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds against San Francisco on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds against San Francisco on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Wait, it’s Friday again? Already? Man, the week went by fast. Sort of like how quickly the University of San Francisco coughed up its lead in the Kennel last night.

•••••••

• The weekend looms, with one nice day – Saturday – seemingly assured. We need it. The yard isn’t going to clean up itself, you know.

Nor will this weekend’s fun college basketball games be missed. We can’t. There are too many good ones on the schedule – and we will get to them in a moment.

However, before we look ahead, we like to check over our shoulder to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

Some things were last night while watching the two games Gonzaga and USF put together. The first one, in the first half, was dominated by the Dons, the second even more so by the Bulldogs. And the things we missed? Oh, acknowledgment of the occasional basket or turnover. That will happen without anyone designated to do the play-by-play (hence the moniker).

Instead of paying someone to let the viewers know those things, ESPN invested its money Thursday into having two former college coaches analyze what was happening. As a change-up, we enjoyed it immensely. As a steady diet? I’m not sure.

But in this Tale of Two Halves, it worked. At least for us. Others’ experiences may vary.

It would have been even more enjoyable, however, if Mark Few’s microphone had worked better in the postgame interview. The lack of volume and occasional feedback made it a painful listen.

OK, we're nit-picking. Let’s move on.

No one uttered the T-word during the broadcast, but with a showdown with BYU looming (see below), it’s obvious in hindsight Thursday night was a Trap Game. The Cougars had one too, against Santa Clara. Neither host team played their best game but both won, assuring Saturday night’s showdown in Provo (also on ESPN2) lost none of its luster.

• Before we get to what else is on that day (and Sunday), we have to pass along these paragraphs from John Blanchette’s column this morning. They concern the polls. They are near-perfect.

“The Cougars joined the (Top 25) club this week at No. 23, zooming past Illinois and Texas Tech and LSU at the nether end of the poll and three more in the waiting room, partially on the strength of a one-point escape against San Diego, which may or may not make it to double-digit victories this season.

“Hey, gather ye resume builders while ye may.

“That all six of those teams the Cougars leapfrogged lost at least once was a nice break, of course. Still, the Zags might want to seek a little counsel from their in-house rivals on how to sell themselves to the voters. After all, two wins this season once knocked Gonzaga out of the No. 1 spot; the Cougars made their move up with a sweep of Nos. 205 and 217 in the NET metrics.”

• We mentioned last weekend there was a dearth of games matching top 25 opponents. That’s not the case this weekend.

Yes, Spokane may have more interest in watching second-ranked Gonzaga at No. 23 BYU, but the best game will be at 9 a.m. That’s when third-ranked Kansas takes on top-ranked Baylor in Waco on ESPN.

It may not have the cachet of the ESPN2 game on at the same time – Virginia at Pitt – but it’s pretty important. Just kidding. It’s really important for NCAA seeding. The Big 12 could have two of the top four seeds, especially if Kansas can find a way to win. If the Jayhawks do, expect them to leapfrog GU atop the polls next week no matter what happens in Provo.

By the way, you can top the night watching two more top 25 teams play, when Oregon, ranked 14th before its Thursday night loss in Tempe, battles 24th-ranked Arizona at 6 on ESPN.

Sunday also features two matchups between ranked teams, but they are on at the same time, 1 p.m. Maryland (8) and Ohio State (25) are on CBS while Butler (21) and Creighton (15) battle on FS1.

• One other note for the weekend, which might make any yard work you attempt a bit easier: Baseball is on the radio. Yes, the tradition continues around here. The first game from Peoria will be on ESPN 920 starting at noon Saturday. Not sure who will be on the call, but if it’s Aaron Goldsmith and Rick Rizzs, what better accompaniment is there for outdoor labor in 40-degree weather than the sounds of spring baseball in Arizona.

And you never know. The guy who hits in the seventh inning, wearing No. 97 and stumping even Rizzs’ knowledge of the M’s farm system, might end up playing every night in left field come August.

•••

Gonzaga: We didn’t get to experience the game in person last night, but it had to be frustrating and exhilarating for fans of either team. Just in different proportions at different times. Jim Meehan was there as an observer and he has this game analysis as well as the keys to GU’s victory. … John has his column. … Colin Mulvany had his camera and has this photo gallery. … The folks in the office have their usual recap with highlights. … And we chipped in with our TV Take. … Jim also has a story on recruit Jalen Suggs being up for a national award. … Larry Weir talked with correspondent Justin Reed for the latest Press Box pod. … The women’s team pulled away in the second half as well, downing Loyola Marymount on the road and assuring it won’t have to share the WCC regular season title. Jim Allen put together this story after watching. …. The baseball team lost the series opener at No. 7 Arkansas. … Elsewhere in the WCC, as we mentioned above, Santa Clara hung around with BYU for a while until the Cougars started making shots and running away. … Pepperdine picked up a win at Portland and Saint Mary’s finally shook off visiting Loyola Marymount.

WSU: Around the Pac-12, it’s been bad enough for Washington lately. Now Isaiah Stewart is in a slump. Last night against Stanford, the Huskies lost their ninth consecutive game. … It wasn’t a good night for Oregon either. The Ducks dropped out of a tie for first with their loss at Arizona State. … With Arizona hammering Oregon State in Tucson, the Wildcats’ game with Oregon tomorrow has added significance for the Ducks. … Colorado joined ASU and UA near the top of the standings by rallying past fading USC. … No one is playing much better than UCLA, which topped Utah in Salt Lake City. The Ute fans are growing restless with the lack of success. … In football news, early recruiting for 2021 isn’t all that shiny for conference schools. … After dropping UC Davis (at a cost of $750,000), USC picked up San Jose State for the 2021 schedule.

EWU: There was a two-half tale in Cheney last night as well, though Eastern jumped out to a big lead and then held on for a one-point win over Sacramento State. Ryan Collingwood has all the information in this story. … The Eagle women upset Sacramento State in California’s capital city. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana State lost its best player and the game at Portland State.

Idaho: Northern Arizona started slowly and got better last night in Moscow. The Vandals never did. The result was a Lumberjack 78-61 victory. Peter Harriman has the story.

Preps: It was quiet day on the basketball playoff front, though we have roundups from girls and boys action. … Mt. Spokane finished fourth in the 3A State gymnastics meet. … Dave Nichols has a notebook of items, including Ron Cox stepping down as boys basketball coach at Lakeside. 

Mariners: One pitch changed Mitch Haniger’s season. Make that two seasons. … Larry Stone talked with Kyle Seager about the Astros’ issue. … We can pass along more on Yusei Kikuchi.

Seahawks: So much to unpack. Yes, Marshawn Lynch is in the “Westworld” trailer. Taking care of his chickens, I suppose. … The Hawks may sign some players with local ties.

Sounders: Seattle opened CONCACAF Champions League play with a draw on the road. That’s good. … The Sounders signed a new midfielder and reached agreement with Alex Roldan.

•••       

• I thought about riding along to the Tri-Cities today and spending 12 hours watching high school basketball. Then I came to my senses. The 12 hours of hoops is fine. It’s the nearly four hours in a car that taxes my soul – and other things. Until later …

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