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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Rankings? Polls? How about just wait until the title is decided? No way

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Is there anything more exciting in sports than college basketball polls? OK, that was a rhetorical question – and the beginning of a joke. After all, with the NCAA tourney at the end of the season, basketball polls are nothing more than fodder for debates around the dinner table.


• And yet, every Monday when the polls hit the street, we check them. How are the Zags doing? Are there any other Northwest schools earning votes? Which West Coast school is ranked the highest?

We’re not sure why we do this to ourselves but we do. Every week. Heck, early on this season we were checking to see if our alma mater was receiving votes. The answer, as it is most years, was no. So, why do they matter so much?


That’s the thing about college sports. We identify with certain schools for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because we attended the school. Or maybe it’s because of geographic proximity and the school or schools are always on the TV and in the news. Or maybe it’s because a friend cheers for them.

Whatever the reason, we glom on. And ride their successes and failures like a rollercoaster throughout the season.

It’s not just the wins and losses – especially if there are a lot of wins. Success breeds comparisons. How successful is our school vs. the one you root for each week? If they haven’t played, we have only one way of knowing. Heck, even if they have played, sometimes the most-recent poll validates our bias.

Or vice-versa.

But ultimately the polls, and the power rankings and the bracket projections, are, in Shakespearian terms, all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Unless good old Stratford-Upon-Avon State is ranked in the top five.

• Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, can you believe how far the Zag men and women fell in the polls this week? What disrespect.

Actually, yes and no. The women are dealing with injuries that have depleted their roster to a degree that it’s almost a miracle they were able to stay undefeated in West Coast Conference play until last week. The road finally got them.

That rarely seems to matter to the Associated Pres voters, unless it is one of the blue bloods of the women’s game. A middle-of-the-ranking team loses, no matter the circumstances, and boom, they fall precipitously. In GU’s case, six spots, to 23rd.

Stanford or Connecticut loses and it was the injuries or an official call or whatever. They are still one of the five or six best, right?

In the GU men’s case, the earlier loss to Loyola Marymount, at home, should have dropped them to lower ends of the poll. But it didn’t. It took an overtime loss to the West Coast Conference’s best team, on the road, for Gonzaga to fall – again – to the bottom third or so of the Top 25. The Zags are 16th this week, with Saint Mary’s, the aforementioned WCC best, rose up to 15.

OK, fine. It really doesn’t matter. But can you believe Arizona is ranked above UCLA? C’mon.

• Just kidding. After all, the only poll that matters in college hoops is … well, none of them. The title is decided on the court. After a long and grueling playoff test. As it should be.

The NFL decides its title the same way. And that title will be determined Sunday evening. We really don’t care who wins between the Chiefs and Eagles, but we thought we ought to remind you the Super Bowl is this weekend.

In case you forgot. Hurry out now. Grab your wings and celery and chips. And get ready to watch a bunch of beer commercials. That’s the forecast.

Crypto? That was so 2022.


WSU: How did the Cougars do in football’s transfer portal? Not well. In another ranking, Jon Wilner has them 11th in the Pac-12. Thank goodness for Stanford’s high academic standards. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college basketball, Colorado is heading on the road. … These stories are silly. Everyone, including Utah, can win their way into the NCAA Tournament. … The Arizona schools head on the Bay Area road trip. … Our choice for conference player of the year? Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis. … We can pass along a women’s notebook from the Mercury News. … Oregon State needs to rebound better. … In football news, Oregon will have to replace a key assistant. … Deion Sanders’ impact has been good for Colorado thus far. … Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is headed to the Super Bowl. … Arizona added to its staff.

Gonzaga: Of course we have stories on this week’s polls. Jim Meehan takes care of the men, Jim Allen the women. … Another edition of the Zags Insiders Podcast is available. Jim Meehan and Richard Fox discuss the Saint Mary’s loss and the Big 12 rumors among other things. … A trio of Bulldog golfers earned preseason WCC honors. That news leads off the S-R’s latest local briefs column. … Elsewhere in the WCC, BYU has found its identity. Can it keep it?

EWU: Athletic director Lynn Hickey is leaving Eastern Washington when her contract expires April 30. She is retiring. Dan Thompson has the story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, for some reason there were conference games on a Monday night. There was also a big upset, with Weber State falling at Northern Colorado 88-54. … Idaho State traveled to Northern Arizona and picked up a 75-70 victory.  

Preps: Wrestling is a team sport, though only in scoring. Every wrestling who takes to the mat has to win on their own. However, Madison McCord has a story this morning on a Mead wrestler who has a teammate close by each time he wrestles. They work together to overcome a lack of hearing. … Dave Nichols has a roundup of Monday’s district basketball playoff games. … Gary Pettigrew, who played football at Gonzaga Prep and spent years in the NFL, died last month at 78. David Oriard has his obituary.

Seahawks: A good question here. Which Seattle sports team has the brightest outlook? Our vote would go to the Kraken, with the M’s close behind. … The Hawks have some stability at cornerback. … We have a couple of Super Bowl preview stories to pass along, one in the S-R about the Eagles’ coach, the other concerning Patrick Mahomes’ athletic life and how it began young. … There are local connections to the game.

Mariners: What will Teoscar Hernandez add to the offense? The M’s are eager to find out.

Kraken: The first trip after the break should bring clarity to Seattle’s needs and, possibly, to the season itself.

Storm: Seattle signed a couple more players. … Portland made a pitch for a WNBA expansion franchise.


• Polls are one thing. Bracketology is another thing all together. It’s sort of like buying 68 Lotto tickets in our mind, except no one ever wins the jackpot. But, hey, all the winning numbers appear on the printout. Just not in the right order. Until later …

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