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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Selection Sunday didn’t have too much intrigue and not nearly enough outrage

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We know your pain. That computer screen in front of you with the NCAA men’s bracket on it. Or the women’s. Or, if you are really, really desperate, one of the NIT brackets. You want to fill it in. You want to enter the fray. You want to, goodness gracious, win. But you know you have no chance.


• We understand because we feel the same way. And no amount of education nor research nor sheer dumb luck will help. Well, that latter might. Because just because you think you know what you know doesn’t mean anything in the crapshoot that is the NCAA Tournament.

Remember that when you begin to question why they heck Gonzaga hasn’t won a men’s title yet. Or you criticize the Cougar women if they struggle in their first-round game. Or the Zag women can’t solve Mississippi’s defense.

Just about anything can happen in the NCAA. Ask the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Or, more to the point, Virginia.

Lose as the 16th seed one year – the only team to ever do that – and win the national title the next – with pretty much the same cast.

It’s college basketball. Under the brightest of lights. The glariest of glares. The pressure can either produce a diamond-level performance or crack a team into a million pieces. And no one, not even the members of the team itself, from the head coach to the 12th person on the bench, knows which is going to happen until it does.

Oh, sure. There are some givens. If you fill out a bracket for the women and don’t pick South Carolina to win it all, you’re probably not going to win the title bonus. The Gamecocks are about as sure a thing as Connecticut back in the day. Or, even, the UCLA men in the middle of John Wooden’s best years. Though their 38-game winning streak is less than half what the Bruins’ best was.

On the men’s side, there is no clear-cut favorite. No Gonzaga from a couple years ago, nor the school that routed them in the title game, Baylor. No Duke with Coach K on the bench. No undefeated Kentucky. The tournament seems wide open to a degree unseen in years.

Which means the No. 1 overall seed, Alabama, will probably coast through the darn thing. Or a seven seed will does something spectacular.

Honestly, we have no idea. We stare at the bracket and choke. There is no way we can pick a winner, for goodness’ sake, let alone every game.

But don’t do what we did. It was expensive. Throwing darts at your screen only breaks the glass. Now we have to win just to pay for the repairs.

• Selection Sunday was sort of a letdown. There was way too little in the way of outrage around these parts.

Maybe the biggest beef comes from Pullman, where the Washington State women were given a decent seed, fifth, after winning the Pac-12 tournament title and earning the conference’s automatic berth. But being sent to Philadelphia, and out of either of the two Seattle regionals, seemed a bit of a slap in the face considering how tough the conference was.

As far as we can figure, switching the Cougars with Iowa State (the fifth seed in Virginia Tech’s Seattle region) wouldn’t have violated any rules. But maybe the committee felt forcing the ACC-champion Hokies out West was big enough of a punishment. Playing a WSU team with a large local following might have been too much.

Gonzaga’s women have a tough opening test – eighth-seed Mississippi – but got to stay on the best coast as the ninth seed in Stanford’s pod. It’s actually possible, if they can get past Ole Miss, the Zags were done a favor. The Cardinal routed them earlier in the year, but that was when GU was down to seven healthy players. Maybe Stanford will be looking ahead to Texas or Louisville in Seattle.

The Gonzaga men? If the tournament is all about matchups – it isn’t but at least 90 percent is – then the Zags should be happy. Grand Canyon and TCU, the first- and probably second-round opponents, look to be good matchups for the Bulldogs. After that it’s just who is left and if that’s beat-up UCLA and then Kansas, that’s not bad either.

But, as we mentioned before, who really knows anything? Just pull up a chair, grab a beverage and enjoy the weeks ahead.


WSU: We mentioned the women already but we do have to link Colton Clark’s story from Pullman on the Cougars and the bracket unveiling. He delves into their recent NCAA history and more. … The fans who were there to watch were just as excited, as Garrett Cabeza shares in this story. … Getting there – or anywhere the local teams play – will coast you. Justin Reed tells you just how much. … Want to know about the pod Washington State was sent to? We can offer you this analysis. We have our own connection. Host Villanova’s associate head coach, Joe Mullaney, was the shooting guard and leading scorer on St. Rita’s 8th-grade basketball team in 1970. The point guard who made him look so good? Yep, your’s truly. Joe’s dad, also Joe, was the Lakers’ head coach that year. … We will link Dan Thompson’s story on the NIT matchup between Eastern Washington and WSU here, but we will delve into the game a bit deeper in the EWU section. … The baseball team earned a Pac-12 series win at Oregon State with a 3-2 win Sunday. It’s part of this roundup. And, because it was in Corvallis, we have more to pass along. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college basketball, Jon Wilner has his analysis in the Mercury News of the conference’s postseason. … Before we get to the NCAA and NIT stuff, how the heck is Mike Hopkins going to turn around Washington? One great recruit or transfer is how, if it happens. … Oregon is in the NIT again, with a No. 1 seed. … Colorado has a three seed. … USC is a 10th seed and faces Michigan State. … UCLA’s loss to Arizona may have cost the Bruins a top seed. Instead, the beat-up Bruins are second in the West. … Arizona State got one of the final spots and will be in a Wednesday play-in game. … Arizona was given a two seed but was sent out of the West. Though the Wildcats start in Sacramento. … On the women’s side, Jeff Metcalfe has his analysis in the Mercury News of the conference’s postseason. … Washington is headed to the WNIT. … So is Oregon, which is something of a surprise considering the Ducks’ NET ranking and other metrics. … Colorado earned a sixth seed. … Utah has its highest seed ever, a two, as the Utes hope to make a deep run. … Stanford, as we mentioned, is a No.1 seed once again. … UCLA will host a pod. … USC ended its tournament drought but was sent on the road. … So was Arizona. … In football news, the offense at Arizona State will be different.

Gonzaga: Our son called it long ago. He feels this year, what with the Zags riding under the radar, will be the year they win a national title. For that to be a Nostradamus-level prediction, they will have to do it as a third seed, something Dave Boling examines in this column. … It’s not as if they haven’t been tested more than once (and in many ways) this season. Theo Lawson looks back. … Grand Canyon, the first-round foe in Denver, has many connections to Gonzaga. Jim Meehan delves into them. … The pod GU plays in also features TCU, the six seed. … As for the women, Jim Allen examines their placing and seed. At least the seed was expected. … Top-seed Stanford headlines the Bay Area pod. … How does Gonzaga’s men rate with the national media? Here’s one thought. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Saint Mary’s earned a five seed and plays VCU. … Santa Clara will be playing in the NIT. … The Portland women will face Oklahoma.

EWU: The Eagles will travel to Pullman tomorrow night for a first-round NIT game with the Cougars. That’s not a lot of time to get ready. No problem for either. They played already this season, an 82-56 Washington State win in the Arena back in November. Dan has this preview. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana State is the lone conference team in the men’s tournament, Sacramento State the lone one with the women.

Chiefs: Spokane was eliminated from the postseason with its 5-4 loss Saturday night in a packed Arena. Kevin Dudley covered that game, though the story didn’t show up on the web until after we finished yesterday morning. … The Chiefs also lost 5-4 last night in Everett, their third game in as many nights.

Mariners: Before we get to the game results – shoot, OK, the M’s won – we have to pass along this all-important story. How did Cal Raleigh earn his nickname? … Read this Jayson Stark piece on the new rules and their impact on spring training. It will get you up-to-date.

Seahawks: Geno Smith’s new contract is built in such a way the team can still make an impact in free agency.

Kraken: Could Seattle do something near impossible? Have a defenseman win the MVP award?


• We’re already exhausted. And the best week of the year is just getting underway. Not smart planning on our part. Either that or the onset of Daylight Saving Time is extracting a cost. We’re not sure. Until later …

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