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A Grip on Sports: After Gonzaga makes quick work of BYU, we turn our eyes elsewhere

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme drives as BYU center Richard Harward defends during the first half on Monday night in Provo, Utah. Timme scored 20 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ 82-71 victory.  (Associated Press)
Gonzaga forward Drew Timme drives as BYU center Richard Harward defends during the first half on Monday night in Provo, Utah. Timme scored 20 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ 82-71 victory. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Well, that was easy. Not really, but Gonzaga has made many of its games look that way. But the win at BYU isn’t the only Zag-related thoughts we have today.

•••••••

• The college basketball polls come out on Mondays. For 12 consecutive weeks, they have featured Gonzaga on the top rung, though there is an undercurrent of support for second-ranked Baylor to hop over them. (More on that in a second.) That’s understandable. The Bears have been impressive and are give the opportunity to burnish their resume weekly with schools the casual college fan recognizes – as opposed to the Pacifics of the world.

Watching Gonzaga last night, however, their ability on both ends – Ken Pomeroy’s mathematical analysis ranks GU second nationally in adjusted offense and sixth in adjusted defense – and depth of scoring options were again on display. Then again, the casual fan probably didn’t stay up to watch, at least in 75 percent of the population centers in this nation. The 8 p.m. PST start time eliminated the entire I-95 corridor from observing. (On the plus side, the near 1 a.m. finish means hardly anyone east of the Rockies saw the Zags stumble down the stretch.)

BYU, after all, isn’t chopped liver (to use a cliché I’ve never understood, as I hate the taste of liver, whether it’s chopped, grilled or sautéed with onions). Pomeroy has the Cougars ranked 33rd, which is six spots above Oklahoma State, a Big 12 member who was featured (and praised) in ESPN’s prime time game yesterday.

And, contrary to popular opinion, he also has Gonzaga’s schedule rated slightly better than Baylor’s, even though the Bulldogs are in the middle of the West Coast Conference slate. What there is of it, anyway.

Half the conference is on a COVID-19 pause, hence last night’s made-for-Monday-night-TV matchup in Provo, a game that was originally slated to end the regular season. The Zags were supposed to play at Santa Clara on Thursday night, but that game has been postponed again, which means Saturday in San Francisco will be their next contest. If it comes off. The Dons are expected to be off the COVID-19 list by then, but who knows?

Heck Baylor was supposed to be playing again. But the Bears announced Monday they have called off their games through Feb. 18. That’s a ways out there.

So is any possible matchup with the two schools atop the college basketball mountain in 2021.

• Speaking of the virus, its specter is looming over the postseason like Godzilla and whatever major city movie producers pick in sequel No. 37. The NCAA seems to have a solid plan to hold its tournament, but it is predicated on teams arriving in Indiana virus-free. Hence seven days of negative tests before entering the Hoosier bubble.

Which is casting doubt on conference tournaments being held in a normal manner.

Mark Few knows that. Which is why his answer to Scott Van Pelt’s question about the WCC tournament late last night isn’t surprising.

“I think there is probably a way to do it,” Few told the ESPN host after just about everyone had gone to bed. “And it probably isn’t gathering maybe all 10 teams down in Vegas. I think, whether it’s taking the top three up to Spokane and playing it off up there after they settle it earlier, or something along those lines.

“Everybody’s put some good thought into it and I think we’ll come to a good conclusion when it’s time.”

It’s nearly time. The tournament is four weekends away. That’s a blink in these every-day-is-the-same times.

It’s not a bad idea. After all, the conference champion and runner-up get byes to the semifinals anyway, so picking four teams to settle it in this weird year wouldn’t be as out-there as many might think. Besides, the fewer folks involved, the smaller chance there is of letting the virus in. And disrupting NCAA Tournament plans.

• The news out of Pullman yesterday was not good.

Jayden de Laura, was pulled over on College Hill on Saturday night, arrested for driving under the influence. He was suspended from team activities immediately.

De Laura started all four games at quarterback this past season, his first with the Cougars. How his arrest will impact the rest of the offseason is unclear but it certainly isn’t a positive. One thing is sure: The way Nick Rolovich handles the incident will set a baseline for the rest of his tenure. Stay tuned.

•••

Gonzaga: A 15-2 start was pretty much perfect for the Bulldogs and, actually, was a lead BYU just could never overcome. Jim Meehan leads off our coverage, as usual, with his game analysis and the difference makers. … Jim also has a poll story, one on the Santa Clara postponement and also visits with Larry Weir for the latest Press Box podcast. … John Blanchette used the game as backdrop for his column highlighting how far the game’s blue bloods have fallen this season. … There is a recap with highlights, as always, and we put together a TV Take column. … There are also a couple stories from Provo to pass along. … Jim Allen passes along the poll news for the women. They have risen to their highest point of the year. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Santa Clara is going to be on pause a while longer.

WSU: Theo Lawson covers the de Laura incident in depth, adding context and detail.  … Around the Pac-12 and college basketball, USC is playing better than anyone in the conference right now. The Trojans’ recent surge has even resulted in a national ranking. … No, there is little chance any coach will be fired after the season, though there are a few on the hot seat (including Arizona’s Sean Miller). … There was one game yesterday. Colorado stopped Oregon State’s hot streak by cooling off the Beavers’ offense. … There is a group trying to get Stanford not to drop the 11 sports as planned. Its efforts, however, seem to be getting nowhere with the administration. … The Pac-12 is also examining its conference tournament, though the conference is about 99 percent certain to stay the course. … How the heck did Larry Krystkowiak become so highly paid? … In football news, Washington has added a touted wide receiver due to a long-time friendship. … Colorado may rely on a pair of dynamic running backs.

EWU: In the Big Sky, Montana State has hired a football coach. Wyoming’s Brent Vigen has a North Dakota State legacy, which doesn’t hurt anyone in the FCS ranks these days. … Weber State will take a No. 3 national ranking into the football season.

Preps: The girls basketball playoffs began in Idaho last night. Dave Nichols has a roundup. … The News Tribune takes a look at what’s being lost without high school sports. … Some sports in Oregon are moving forward.

Seahawks: Maybe the biggest offseason decision the Hawks have is whether to re-sign cornerback Shaq Griffin. … The biggest noise? That would surround Russell Wilson, of course. No matter if there is fire with the smoke, however, salary cap issues make it tough for Seattle to do anything until at least June 1. … Wilson’s connection to and impact in the community is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be.

Mariners: The M’s may want to strengthen their roster with some veterans before or during spring training. Who might they pick? … The franchise signed a minor league pitcher.

•••       

• Brrr. That’s a preemptive brrr. It’s going to get cold around these parts the next few days. Arctic cold. Literally. As Phil Connors might describe it, an impressive dome of high pressure over the … ah forget it. Just know the low temperatures will drop to the single digits and the wind will be blowing. If I could, I would spend the next week in bed. And then demand spring begin. Actually, though, the cold spell should be winter’s last big push. The long-range forecast includes a lot of 40-plus degree days. Around here in February, that’s downright balmy. Until later …

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