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

A Grip on Sports: With college football’s regular season all but over, hoops take centerstage – when the NFL isn’t playing

A GRIP ON SPORTS • With the college football regular season almost finished – Army and Navy play Saturday in Boston, which interests a huge swath of Americans despite each team’s 5-6 record – our weekend TV preview begins to morph into a basketball outlook. But not completely. Not until the NFL ends.

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• Yes, CBS will show the 124th battle between the oldest service academies tomorrow starting at noon. The usual site, Philadelphia, has been jettisoned for the next few years as the game moves around the Northeast. But it’s not as if either school ever has a home-field advantage.

Now, if the Space Force opens an academy and hosts a game with Air Force, that would be different. As it is, Army/Navy is the premier matchup in that regard.

But it’s also not the only college football available this weekend. The FCS playoffs have reached the quarterfinal stage, with seven of the eight seeds still playing.

The weekend’s games start tonight, when second-seeded Montana hosts No. 7 Furman (6 p.m., ESPN2). Three other games play out Saturday, with the most-important matchup for this area, No. 5 Albany traveling to No. 4 Idaho, the only one not on old-fashioned cable. The Vandals’ game is available on ESPN+, starting at 7 p.m.

There are other NCAA tourneys in play this weekend as well, with the NCAA volleyball championships having reached its round of eight, though Washington State’s loss Thursday has eliminated the closest school. The Pac-12 has two schools remaining, Stanford and Oregon. All four regional title matches will be on ESPNU tomorrow, starting at 1 p.m.

The state of Oregon is represented in the other on-going tournament, the College Cup of men’s soccer. The sport’s Final Four is today, with Oregon State, a bit depleted after the NCAA handed out punishment yesterday for administrative errors based on yellow-card accumulation, facing Notre Dame in one semifinal (5:45 p.m., ESPNU).

The rest of the weekend belongs to college hoop and the NFL, which is just fine by most of us. We always go through the Saturday schedule and try to pick a trio (or so) of top games (or so) that don’t include the local ones.

Our choices for this week? We start with Syracuse at Georgetown (8:30 a.m., Fox) but only because we read a Washington Post profile of new Hoya head man Ed Cooley and now want to root for him.

The other picks are more about the on-court action, including disappointing Saint Mary’s at No. 13, undefeated Colorado State (3:30 p.m., CBS Sports). If the Gaels are ever going to get back on track, Saturday is the day to do it.

The best game of the day comes from Tucson, where the newly crowned No. 1 team, Arizona, hosts No. 23 Wisconsin, one of the nation’s hottest teams. The schools have a history, though that all came before Tommy Lloyd took over at UA. Other games of interest include No. 8 Marquette trying to get back on track at Notre Dame (6 p.m., Fox) and UC Irvine at No. 25 San Diego State (7:30, FS1). Wait, that last one is only of relevance to us.

Add in seventh-ranked Gonzaga facing Washington in Hec Ed on Saturday night (8 p.m., ESPN2) and you have a full day of dunks and back picks.

With all that out of the way, Sunday is about the NFL. Unless, of course, the Washington State men hosting Grambling (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) is of interest to you. Or the 21st-ranked women, opening Pac-12 play by hosting the Huskies (1 p.m., Pac-12 Washington only), is also on your radar.

By then, we’ll know how badly the 49ers have routed the Seahawks (1:05 p.m., Fox) and whether Sean McDermott has made any other faux pas while leading the Bills at Kansas City (1:25, CBS). The Philadelphia at Dallas showdown (5:20, NBC)? That will conflict.

It also conflicts with the weekend’s final Kraken game. The reeling regional NHL squad hosts Minnesota on Sunday night starting at 6 (Root). On Saturday, they host Tampa Bay (7 p.m., Root), so you can get your fix without missing out on Dak Prescott’s three or four touchdown passes.

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WSU: The Cougar volleyball team’s season came to end Thursday night in Pittsburgh, victim of a straight-set loss to the top-seeded Panthers. Jim Meehan took it in and has this coverage. … Part of the success the men’s basketball team is enjoying comes from the play of 6-foot-7 point guard Kymany Houinsou. The sophomore is filling in well as Washington State deals with an injury. Greg Woods has all the details in this story. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, we’ve stayed away from the newest proposal from NCAA president Charlie Baker, which he announced recently in a hope of controlling the process in which the organization regains control over an out-of-control system. Mainly because we don’t see it working. Jon Wilner, however, takes care of explaining what Baker’s trial balloon would entail and the mountains it has to rise over to fly. … The NCAA faces more lawsuits than your local cryptocurrency flim-flam artist. Another big one was filed this week. … If you’re interested in football recruiting out West, this Athletic piece sums it up quickly. … The Associated Press puts out its own All-Pac-12 team. Kalen DeBoer was the coach and nine Oregon players made the squads. … Arizona had six players on the teams. By the way, the Wildcats’ bowl opponent, Oklahoma, is missing its quarterback. … One of the nation’s top high school offensive linemen announced yesterday he would sign with Colorado. … Bryson Barnes is leaving Utah. But not until after he runs its offense in the Las Vegas Bowl. …  In basketball news, next up for Oregon is UTEP. … Overtime is Oregon State’s newest teammate. … A newcomer is developing quickly for Colorado. … Bronny James has been back practicing for USC. He’s expected to play Saturday against Long Beach State. … Arizona State’s most-recent comeback win was a big one. … Arizona has great rim protection. … The eighth-ranked Colorado women have some time off. … No. 11 Utah’s best player played her best late in a win over St. Joseph’s. … Second-ranked UCLA routed Cal State Northridge.

Gonzaga: The women traveled to Berkeley on Thursday to face California and former GU starter McKayla Williams. Though it wasn’t easy, the 23rd-ranked Zags (9-2) picked up a 78-70 overtime victory. Greg Lee watched and has this story. … Jim Meehan returns with a look at Saturday’s opponent for the men, Washington. The Huskies have come close to posting a season-defining upset but have yet to get it done. A win against the Bulldogs would really help.

Idaho: Last season was all about the revitalized Vandal offense. This one? As UI prepares for its FCS quarterfinal matchup, Colton Clark delves into the defensive improvement. It starts with a tough-to-crack secondary, which isn’t the usual starting spot. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana State has lost another starter to the portal. … Weber State has been hit hard by transfers as well. … Northern Arizona introduced its new football coach Thursday. … Montana running back Eli Gillman won the Jerry Rice Award, given to the FCS’ best freshman. … Finally, former Ferris High standout Kacey Spink propelled the Idaho State women to their latest victory.

Preps: Dave Nichols has a roundup of Thursday night’s basketball action.

Indians: Dave returns with this story about a new George Brett documentary on Netflix.

Mariners: The M’s aren’t going to spend a ton of money in the offseason. Instead, they’ve hired a hitting coordinator. Makes us wonder if he’ll sit in the press box and send down advice through a microphone in the players’ batting helmets. … Marco Gonzales’ trade route from Seattle to Atlanta and finally to Pittsburgh, lands the former GU star with a franchise that values pitchers with his talents.

Kraken: Six. That is number of games Seattle has gone without a win. The Kraken lost 2-1 in New Jersey last night. … That defeat came despite some roster changes.

Seahawks: Jamal Adams. A good investment? Discuss. … Uh oh. Geno Smith was limited in practice due to a groin injury. Maybe training buddy Michael Penix Jr. has a home remedy. … DK Metcalf and his use of sign language continues to resonate. … If the Hawks are to win this week, they will have to control the 49er passing game – and move the ball through the air themselves. Neither have been the case recently between these teams. … For some reason, the first Monday Night flexed game includes the reeling Seahawks and the Philadelphia Eagles. Maybe someone in ESPN’s hierarchy has a relative in Seattle they want to visit on the company nickel before Christmas.

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• Just when we thought it was OK to look forward to a golf season in which all the stars stayed put, Jon Rahm takes the money and runs to LIV. In his defense, it was a lot of money. Shohei Ohtani money. Maybe the PGA Tour should somehow talk LIV into putting John Stanton in charge. Then the defections would stop. Until later …