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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: As Cougar men head to New York, we wonder what the future holds for them and the Zags

WSU guard Michael Flowers drives against BYU forward Atiki Ally Atiki in NIT quarterfinals on Wednesday in Provo, Utah.  (Scott G Winterton)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • A warm Sunday morning seems like a good day to look ahead. And there is a lot to look at, some of it positive, some of it not so much.


• This week, the Washington State men’s basketball team will play in New York City. It’s the semifinals of the oldest continuous postseason basketball tournament in the nation, the NIT. And the Cougars are a part of its final four.

We’re not going to look back at the last time this happened for the Cougars, because that was a generation ago.

(If you need any proof, the WSU folks this week produced a photoshopped illustration of former Cougar single-season 3-point record holder Klay Thompson and the guy who broke that mark, Michael Flowers. The differences in the length – and bagginess – of their shorts are striking.)

This week is this week. And the Cougars have a chance to bring home a national trophy. To do so, they’ll have to get past an SEC school (Texas A&M) in Tuesday’s semifinals and (6:30 p.m., ESPN2) and then either St. Bonaventure or Xavier (form Arizona coach Sean Miller’s old and new school) in Thursday’s final.

No matter what happens (unless it is similar to the last NIT semi), this NIT run has been good for Washington State. Lots of practices, lots of high-level competition, lots of time on the road together, building team unity.

And maybe even a trophy for the Beasley Coliseum case.

• There won’t be a trophy this year for Gonzaga’s men. Their national championship hopes were derailed on Thursday night by too many missed shots against an Arkansas defense Duke penetrated handily last night.

That’s yesterday’s news, however. Today we focus on next season using this Jim Meehan story as our kickoff point.

There is going to be a decent amount of roster churn before the Zags tip it again.

We’re probably all agreed Chet Holmgren will be in the NBA next season. He won’t get the salary bump his predecessors did, however and not because the NBA still doesn’t pay its high draft picks plenty. It’s just that Holmgren was making good money here thanks to NIL contracts.

He’s already a national brand.

So is Drew Timme, albeit it’s more his mustache than his jump shot. It doesn’t matter. The checks cash the same. But will it be enough for him to stick around GU another season. We doubt it.

The same can be said about Andrew Nembhard and Rasir Bolton, though we’re less certain about Bolton, who has found his place in this community off the court. Whether he sticks around and uses his COVID-19 extra year or not, he’s earned our gratitude for how he’s helped the least fortunate among us.

One other thing. If the past is any indicator, there will be a surprise somewhere on the roster. There always seems to be. A player who everyone expects to contribute at some point will announce they are moving on. And then someone will transfer in to fill the spot.

It is the way.


Gonzaga: We mentioned this above, but it’s worth mentioning again. Jim delves into what’s ahead for the Zags. … A late home run helped lift the baseball team to another win at BYU and a series victory. … Around the WCC, Portland’s season ended with a loss to Southern Utah. One of the Pilots’ guards, Chris Austin, suffered a major leg injury during the game. … A BYU freshman is making money the old-fashioned way: off his teammates. We used to do it with gin rummy. He has the NIL to help.

WSU: Before he heads to New York, Colton Clark has this story on Ward and spring football practice. … Around the Pac-12 and college basketball, Villanova was the first team to earn a Final Four spot, holding off Houston. … Will that be where UCLA ends up next season? The Bruins have a strong core coming back. …  Oregon State’s women will host UCLA in the WNIT today. … Arizona’s finish is either a footnote or an indicator of issues. You decide. … In football news, Lincoln Riley has been at spring practices a week at USC. He spoke yesterday about what Dave Nichol, the former WSU assistant, meant to him. … It’s time to preview Colorado’s spring practices. … Utah has picked up a commitment from a highly sought after quarterback. … Arizona State is trying to solidify its passing game.

Idaho: It’s funny. The Hull sisters, Lexie and Lacie, have one more chance to play in their hometown. That happens this evening (6 p.m., ESPN) as their Stanford team tries to avenge an early season loss to Texas. Dave Nichols has a lot more in this preview. … There are other stories about the Elite Eight matchup to pass along. … Around the Big Sky, spring football is in high gear at Weber State and Montana State, where the Bobcats and quarterback Tommy Mellott seemed to have finished playing only yesterday.

Preps: It’s time to take a look at track on the girls’ side of things. Keenan Gray has a story about Shadle Park sprinter Kayleigh Archer. … Keenan also put together a roundup of Saturday’s meets. … Dave has a capsule look at each of the Greater Spokane League girls’ track teams. … Finally, Dave has this roundup of other sports from yesterday.

Chiefs: The playoffs are getting farther away after Spokane lost a 4-0 decision against the Americans in Kennewick.

Mariners: Poor Evan White. Poor M’s. The one young player Seattle invested in heavily is out with another injury. And faces more surgery. … Did you know Ichiro and Julio Rodriguez had built a bond? Me too. … Ryan Divish feels Rodriguez has done enough to merit an opening day roster spot. … Chris Flexen didn’t have his best stuff yesterday.

Kraken: The win streak is over. Seattle lost to the Kings.


• No offers. Darn. That means we will have to spend the afternoon in the yard, cleaning up winter’s debris and planting flowers for the summer. You know, we actually like getting our hands dirty some. If we didn’t, we would have moved into an HOA years ago. Until later …