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A Grip on Sports: Maybe what Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t say last night is as important as what he did

Gonzaga huard Aaron Cook, right, defends Kansas guard Bryce Thompson during the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Nov. 26, 2020, in Fort Myers, Florida.   (Chris Tilley/Fort Myers Tip-Off)
Gonzaga huard Aaron Cook, right, defends Kansas guard Bryce Thompson during the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Nov. 26, 2020, in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Chris Tilley/Fort Myers Tip-Off)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Sometimes what is said is important. Other times, what isn’t said is. Let’s focus on that second sentence, shall we?

•••••••

• Kansas played at No. 2 Baylor last night. The Jayhawks lost. Just as they had lost earlier this season to No. 1 Gonzaga. Which makes KU coach Bill Self this year’s expert on the nation’s two best college basketball teams. There is just one question to ask.

So, Bill, which team is better?

“I don’t know which one I’d say is better,” Self told the assembled media. “They’re both terrific.”

How diplomatic.

At first glance, it might seem Self refused to take a stand. Not make a pick. Waffle. Equivocate. Walk the middle path.

But did he really? Look, this isn’t Self’s first rodeo. He’s been Kansas’ coach since 2003. Won a national title. Twice the national coach of the year. He knows what he’s doing.

The easy answer in a Waco press conference after losing to the best team in the Big 12 is just come right out and say it. Baylor, the team the Jayhawks will probably have to beat to win the conference tournament title, is the nation’s best squad. Get on the Bears good side. Don’t give them bulletin board material. Just own it. Say Baylor is better than Gonzaga.

He didn’t.

Why not? Could it be he worries about having to meet up with Mark Few’s team in the NCAA tourney and doesn’t want to add anything to that pseudo rivalry? Probably not. The chances of that are slim. And he knows his team will meet the Bears at least once more, more than likely twice more – before the NCAA Tournament even starts.

Maybe it’s because of his personal relationship with Few? Now that’s funny. Even if they were the best of buds, if Self thought saying Baylor was better would help his team at all, he would.

There is really only one answer.

Self feels Gonzaga is the better of the two but knows saying that in Waco would be a huge mistake, especially after an eight-point loss that was really a double-digit defeat.

The right answer was no answer. Last night. For Bill Self. For everyone else, the answer may come in March. Or April. Like, maybe, April 5. In Lucas Oil Stadium. In the NCAA title game.

• Before we delve into the main body of links, sports editor Ralph Walter decided to give you something to brighten a typically gloomy mid-January day. Retired sports writer Howie Stalwick has this story filled with funny statements over the years about a variety of sports-oriented topics.

•••

Gonzaga: The Zags’ up-and-down outings didn’t cost them the No. 1 ranking. Jim Meehan has that information in this story. By the way, Baylor’s win over Kansas came after the voting. … Jim also has more on two Zags winning weekly conference honors again. …That is all prologue. The main event? Jim’s conversation with Larry Weir on the latest Press Box podcast. … The Zag women stayed at No. 20, though there is a new No. 1 team (Louisville) and Washington State dropped out of the poll. … Elsewhere in the WCC, if you are wondering why the conference shelved an idea of a bubble this season, here is your explanation.

WSU: If you have been watching the Cougars recent road games you might have known they have kneeled during the national anthem. Then again, rarely is that part of the pregame ever shown on TV, so you might have missed it. But Theo Lawson didn’t and he explains the thought process behind the players’ decision. … Around the Pac-12 and college basketball, there are always surprises, good and bad. … Oregon State won a battle for a talented transfer who will be eligible to play next season. … Oregon’s coronavirus pause is over. The Ducks, who stayed put in the AP poll, are back on the practice floor. … UCLA is back in the top 25. … When Tahj Eaddy transferred to USC, no one knew how important of a role he would fill. … Arizona and Arizona State are going to meet a couple times in five-day span. That allows an open week at the end of the schedule. … In football news, could a Pac-12 all-star team play with Alabama? … USC got better this season. That’s the opinion of the athletic director, so it matters. … Arizona State has filled a staff opening. Colorado had one develop. … Oregon State expects to continue to build on its offensive success.

Idaho: With three more schools deciding to opt out of the spring football season, the Big Sky is scrambling to rebuild its schedule. Peter Harriman talked with athletic director Terry Gawlik concerning the plans. … Peter also has this story on the Vandals’ recent basketball play, including the emergence of a couple of big men. … Around the Big Sky, Sacramento State earned a weekend split with Idaho State.

Seahawks: So why are the Hawks talking with former Jets’ coach Adam Gase about their offensive coordinator opening? Your guess is as good as mine. … No matter who is in charge, the running back situation needs to be cleared up. After all, Pete Carroll wants to run the ball more.

Mariners: The M’s best prospects are all a part of the questions everyone has about this season’s squad.

Sounders: Why would Swansea want Jordan Morris? And vice-versa? Here are the answers to those questions.

•••       

• Watching Baylor play again last night, I tried to imagine Gonzaga’s offense against the Bears’ athletic defense. I projected the Zags in their attempts to stop Baylor in transition and in the half court. It’s such an intriguing matchup that it may come down to one aspect of the game: The Bears’ 3-point shooting. If they are making shots, they would probably win. If not, then GU runs them out of the gym. Until later …

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