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Friday, April 3, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: The Zags messed up their poll ranking by – and we’re not joking – winning two games at home by big margins over good-to-decent teams

Gonzaga’s Drew Timme (2) heads to the basket against Santa Clara’s Jaden Bediako last Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Drew Timme (2) heads to the basket against Santa Clara’s Jaden Bediako last Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Let’s see how this worked. Team A won two games at home against teams ranked quite a bit higher in the metric the NCAA uses to rate schools than the two teams Team B defeated, one at home, the other on the road. And yet Team B’s tight wins convinced enough voters to jump it over Team A in the rankings. Odd.


• Not really. Gonzaga was involved.

Say whatever you want about The Zags – and many of you do – if the same circumstances happened to your school in any college poll ranking, you would be ticked off. Really ticked off.

The Bulldogs came into last week as the No. 1 team in the nation. They routed two teams, Santa Clara and BYU, ranked 80 and 33, respectively, in the NCAA’s NET rankings. The wins came by an average of more than 36 points. Last week’s No. 2 team, Baylor, won at home against Iowa State (No. 82 in the NET) and on the road at Oklahoma State (78). The Bears average margin of victory in those two? Um, 10 points.

In other words, by any objective measure, Gonzaga had a better week than the Bears.

And yet enough votes changed to move Baylor to the top of the A.P. poll.

Look, it’s OK to believe Baylor is the best team in the land, even if the Bears’ loss came to … oh, right, unranked Washington. But it doesn’t seem as if last week’s results merited a change on the top of the rankings. The week before? Sure. That week Baylor won at Texas Tech and Kansas. Both ranked. Both good teams. Meanwhile, the Zags’ week wasn’t as impressive.

But the voters didn’t pull the trigger. Not enough of them, anyway, to jump BU over GU. Instead they waited for a less-than-impressive week for Baylor to do it. And a better week for the Zags.

It makes no sense. As usual.

• A lot was made of Felix Hernandez signing a contract yesterday with the Atlanta Braves.

It’s sad, sure, to think of Felix in any other uniform than Seattle’s. After all, he’s played every day of his long, illustrious career in a Mariner uniform. But maybe there is not that much to worry about.

Felix’s contract is of the minor-league variety. He’ll have to prove himself in spring training to make the Braves’ regular season roster. For his sake, many Northwest folks are hoping it will happen. Honestly, though, after watching him perform the past two years, do you believe he has enough left to help one of the best teams in baseball? We sure don’t.

Unless Felix has completely transformed his body – if that’s happened, then we all should feel a bit cheated and wonder why he didn’t do it for the team that was paying him almost $28 million last season – and/or is willing to completely transform his pitching style – ditto – then he doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another high performance season.

And that’s what the Braves need, even if Felix is only going to vie for their fifth-starter spot. It’s a spot he couldn’t hold down for the woeful Mariners last season, undone by injuries and a lack of competiveness. And we should expect him to magically improve this season after he turns 34-years-old?

Not buying it.

Neither, really are the Braves, considering the contract Felix signed. It’s no-risk. They have no emotional ties to one of the best to ever wear a Seattle uniform. He works out, great. They got a bargain. He doesn’t? No big deal. It’s a business and Felix will be out looking for work. Again.

Sound cold? It’s a cold business. It's based on results. The last couple seasons, Felix Hernandez’s results have been less than stellar. This may just be his last chance.


WSU: It seems like old times in a lot of ways. There is football news, what with Theo Lawson telling us Anthony Gordon is going to emulate Luke Falk and wear Tyler Hilinski’s No.3 at the Senior Bowl. And Theo passes along coaching news, with Nick Rolovich adding an offensive line coach and a strength coach from his old school. … Plus there is basketball news. Theo has a story on CJ Elleby being named the Pac-12 player of the week. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, if it weren't for Clay Helton, Arizona's Kevin Sumlin would be on the hottest seat in the Pac-12. … Speaking of Helton, USC is expected to hire a defensive coordinator this week. … Utah's Zack Moss won't play in the Senior Bowl but will be at the NFL draft combine. … Justin Herbert will represent Oregon at the Senior Bowl. … In basketball news, Colorado made some program history this week. … Arizona has a long history of success – and poll rankings. … Oregon State still has a narrow path to the NCAA tournament. … The NET rankings are important to the conference.

Gonzaga: Of course the poll news is covered by our friend Jim Meehan, who has this story. For the record, GU remained No. 1 in the coaches’ poll. … He also has a story on Corey Kispert being named the WCC player of the week. … Jim talked with Larry Weir for the latest Press Box pod, though they did it before the poll results were released. … The women jumped up the rankings quite a bit after a two-win week and corresponding losses by teams previously above them. Jim Allen has a story on their ranking. … Around the WCC, BYU has an important week ahead. … Kolby Lee will continue to play a big role in the Cougars success.

Whitworth: It’s a big week for the Pirates, starting tonight with a visit from rival Whitman. Dan Thompson has a preview of what’s ahead for Whitworth.

CCS and NIC: Both schools men’s teams are undefeated in conference play, staying that way after victories last night.

Preps: The Spokesman-Review is going to sponsor and run high school all-star games in March. Dave Nichols shares all the particulars in this column.

Seahawks: Did the Hawks make a mistake letting Richard Sherman go when they did? My thought is sure, but I’ve never been in their locker room, so I have no idea what his presence meant. And that’s important. … Speaking of Sherman, his withdrawal from the Pro Bowl opened a spot for Shaquill Griffin.

Mariners: Ryan Divish passes along the Felix Hernandez news.


• Say next season Washington State’s football team is 5-1, ranked 14th and wins its Oct. 17th game at Stanford, a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 team. Baylor is 4-1, ranked 15th and wins that week at Texas Tech, a middle-of-the-road Big 12 team. The next week, the Bears jump WSU in the AP poll because, hey, the Big 12 is a better football conference than the Pac-12. I’m pretty sure Cougar fans would have a conniption. And rightfully so. I pass that along just to put into context what occurred this week in college hoops. Until later …

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