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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: The new year is here and, more importantly, so is conference basketball

Portland guard Isaiah White, left, defends against Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. (Steve Dipaola / AP)
Portland guard Isaiah White, left, defends against Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. (Steve Dipaola / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • All is right with the world. College basketball has taken over Thursday nights around here again.

•••••••

• It doesn’t matter which team you root for, last night was for you.

You a big Washington State fan? The Cougars were playing a Pac-12 game in Beasley and on television. It was there to be watched.

You a big Gonzaga fan? Your Zags were in Portland and the game was available on TV. The WCC is underway, and GU already holds a game lead on San Francisco (and Pepperdine and USD).

Idaho? The Vandals played at home. And they won their Big Sky opener.

You expect it to be easy? Don't. It's conference basketball time.

It isn’t perfect, but the Pac-12 and the WCC and the Big Sky members usually play their games on Thursday and Saturday nights. Oh sure, there will be an occasional game on another evening – the Big Sky plays a lot of Saturday/Monday weekend sets – but for the next couple months you can set your DVR pretty consistently.

And you better – if you have no allegiance.

If you just like to watch the local teams play, there is going to be some overlap. It’s inevitable. Last night was a case study. There was about an hour’s worth of overlap between the local teams, so the DVR had to be running or you were going to miss something.

It’s a small price to pay for having teams from three of the West’s four best conferences playing. (Only the Mountain West is not in our area.)

• There is a big announcement on ESPN2 tonight.

Jalen Suggs, the five-star wing coveted by the Zags, will tell the world where he will attend college in the fall. Or, even if he will attend college. The 6-foot-5 guard is still contemplating an early pro career.

If that’s not the choice, expect Suggs to pick GU over his four other finalists, Florida, Florida State, Iowa State and his home-state Minnesota Gophers.

The Zags have been Suggs’ frontrunner for some time and a highly rated recruiting class, which includes players Suggs is well-acquainted and friendly with, shouldn’t hurt. Nor should the Bulldogs’ current ranking.

Make no mistake. “Coaching-up” players is important. Gonzaga has done that well the past two decades. But it’s more important to have talent. And Suggs is a talent.

•••

WSU: Kyle Smith maybe should have spent some of his offseason time taking medical school classes. He’s had to perform enough triage in his first season as Washington State’s basketball coach. Jeff Pollard, a starter, joined the injured list last night and the shorthanded Cougars fell to visiting USC. (We all know USC is a basketball school these days, right?) Theo Lawson was at Beasley and has this game analysis. … There is more coverage in the Los Angeles newspapers. … If you wondered how Gage Gubrud’s year was, wonder no longer. He and Ryan Collingwood talked recently. The result was this Q&A. … Former WSU coach Paul Wulff has a new job. He will be the offensive line coach under former EWU coach Beau Baldwin at Cal Poly. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the opening night of basketball resembled football's entire season in one way: This conference hates prosperity. For example, No. 4 Oregon went into Boulder and came out with a loss as Colorado showed it must be reckoned with. … And UCLA, one of the lower-rated conference schools, went into Seattle and upset the Huskies. This is a bad loss for Washington. … Utah, one of the Pac-12's youngest teams, had no trouble with Oregon State. … Stanford won the battle for the Bay with a 16-point home win over California. … Arizona State and Arizona meet Saturday in Tucson. … In football news, it looks as if California has picked a new coordinator.

Gonzaga: Jim Meehan made the trek to Portland for the single-game road trip – the Zags are back in the Kennel on Saturday to face Pepperdine – and has this game analysis. He also has the keys to the victory. … We watched on TV and experienced listening to announcers who are, you know, actually older than I am. Doesn’t happen often. We have our TV Take. … Jim has the Suggs’ story as well. …The folks in the office put together this game recap. … Jim Allen traveled to Utah to cover the Zag women in their early WCC-season showdown with BYU. It wasn’t that close. Gonzaga won, 55-43. … Larry Weir’s latest Press Box pod features Steven Karr of the Slipper Still Fits. … Around the WCC, Saint Mary's traveled across the Bay and asserted its dominance, defeating USF 69-58. … Loyola Marymount rallied for a home win over San Diego.

Idaho: The Vandals picked up their first conference win in their first conference home game. Peter Harriman was at the Cowan Spectrum and has this story from the victory over Portland State. … The Vandal women lost for the first time in conference play. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana picked up a crucial road win at Southern Utah. … Montana State fell to Northern Colorado in Greeley.

Preps: We can pass along roundups of the action in boys and girls basketball around the area.

Chiefs: Adam Beckman is the WHL’s Player of the Month for December.

Seahawks: Russell Wilson understands his relationship with Pete Carroll is not all that usual. … Travis Homer has asserted himself for the Hawks. … Don't expect another delay of game call late.

•••       

• We shared our thoughts on Don Larsen yesterday. Our buddy Tom Clouse has more in today’s paper. Until later …

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