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

A Grip on Sports: The weekend features a lot, including a Super Bowl-caused black hole in Sunday’s schedule

A GRIP ON SPORTS • As longtime readers of this feature know, we love doughnuts. So much so, we named our latest puppy Donut, combining two of the great loves of our life. The one overarching characteristic of a good doughnut, fried dough version? The hole in the middle. Sort of like this Sunday.


• Tonight. All day Saturday. Sunday morning. Throughout our quasi-holiday weekend – yes, we all wish we had Monday off – you can watch pretty much whatever you want in the sports realm on TV.

Basketball? Oh ya. Hockey? Sure. Golf? Well, if you want to call what happens on the 16th hole in Phoenix golf, then sure. Soccer? Even that. Auto racing? Sadly, no. But that’s the exception that proves … forget it. Never understood that phrase. An exception never proves anything.

But back to our point. Up until early afternoon Sunday, pretty much everything is on the table. Then, nothing. Nothing except the Super Bowl, which is pretty big exception that, honestly, rules. And the hole itself proves the NFL rules. All. Like that ring in that series of movies.

Golly. It’s a big deal. A huge deal, with about a third of everybody who lives in this country watching. No wonder companies are willing to spend $7 million for 30 seconds of the party. And probably another $7 million trying to produce an epic commercial. That’s a lot of dough.

Worth it? Sure. Remember the hole in the sports schedule. That’s rare. A third of the country is focused on you. Heck, it’s hard to get a third of the country to focus on voting and that’s important.

To be fair, the Super Bowl is always more entertaining, even when it’s a blowout – we’re looking at you Denver, victims of a 55-10 steamrolling in 1990 and the Seahawks’ 43-8 triumph in 2014. It’s wildly entertaining when it’s tight – sure, there have been closer games than the Rams’ 23-16 win over Tennessee in 2000 but the distance between winning and losing rarely seemed as dramatic, other than, maybe, the “wide right” Super Bowl of 1991.

No matter how it turns out, Super Bowl (checks a Roman numeral dictionary) LVIII will keep us enthralled. If only to watch what happens with the State Farm commercial.

• OK, what else is on? College hoops, of course.

The year before intersectional games morph into conference matchups – that will be fun, huh? – we get to watch one that may just change the narrative for Spokane’s NCAA perennial participant.

Gonzaga jets across the country to take on Kentucky in Lexington, a usual occurrence in, say, December, but rare in mid-February. The Zags really need a win. The Wildcats are ranked 17th, have a certain cachet despite an up-and-down season, and this one is on CBS in the middle of Saturday (1 p.m. tip), meaning at least a few of the selection committee members will see it.

Oh, and yes, it is a possible Quad 1 win for Mark Few’s team, which would fill a big hole in its resume.

But that’s not the only interesting matchup Saturday. Two of the Big 12’s hottest teams, No. 4 Kansas and 13th-ranked Baylor, face off at KU (3 p.m., ESPN). Expect a late whistle to go the Jayhawks way and for Bill Self’s team to survive because of it. It just seems right.

The best game, West Coast edition, is probably No. 8 Arizona, coming off a triple-overtime win at Utah last night, taking it’s almost empty gas tank into Boulder, where Colorado has yet to lose this season (7 p.m., ESPN).

If the Buffs can pull an upset, the winner of a 2 p.m. matchup between Oregon and Washington State (Pac-12 Networks) in Eugene will be tied for the top spot in the conference standings.

Super Bowl or not, that may just be the biggest story of the weekend. Well, in these parts. Everywhere else?

It’s going to hard to top the Bud Light commercial.


WSU: The Cougars ensured Saturday’s showdown in Eugene would be important by holding off Oregon State in Corvallis last night. The 64-58 victory, in a place even Arizona couldn’t solve, was more about toughness than art. About stick-to-it than explode-past. You know, the kind of win NCAA Tournament teams earn. And for the first time since losing to North Carolina in the 2008 Sweet Sixteen, that may just be where the Cougars are headed. Greg Woods has this game story. … The Cougars also had some off-the-football-field news yesterday, with athletic director Pat Chun named to the CFP selection committee. Greg has that covered as well. … For those of you with decently long memories, two former Washington State quarterbacks were announced yesterday as members of Northern Iowa’s football staff. The headliner is Luke Falk, the Cougar all-time leader in passing yards, attempts, completions, touchdowns and times being sacked (we think). The other one? That would be Trey Tinsley, who in two years on the WSU roster, threw exactly 15 passes. Of course, Gardner Minshew and Anthony Gordon were on the roster at that time too. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, you like consistency? Then you will love how Washington has performed against the Ducks the past 10 years. How about 5-18? Yep. And many of those defeats came in games, like Thursday’s 85-80 loss, in which the Huskies had a good shot at winning. … The home winning streak continued for Colorado, with sliding Arizona State the victim. … We mentioned the best game of the night above, with No. 8 Arizona getting past Utah in triple overtime. … Fourth-ranked Colorado’s women have ridden big crowds to home success as well. … USC has basically relied on JuJu Watkins. … UCLA will have to use its depth this weekend against Arizona. … In football news, why the heck is Chip Kelly trying to run from Westwood and why is he being so blatant about it? Jon Wilner tries to figure that out in the Mercury News. … Wilner also passes along this recruiting roundup. … Washington will be playing some freshmen next season, though the quarterback will again probably be a transfer. … Arizona received some good news yesterday.

Gonzaga: Your star player, one who averages more than 20 points and near 10 rebounds a game, not playing? For many college hoops teams, that would be a hard-to-overcome challenge. Not for the 19th-ranked GU women last night against visiting Pepperdine. Even with Yvonne Ejim in Hungary, playing with the Canadian National Team as they try to qualify for the Paris Olympics, the Zags rolled, 83-46. Greg Lee has a lot more in this story. … Colin Mulvany was also in the Kennel and has this photo gallery. … Theo Lawson has a couple stories about the men, one of which delves into the evolution of scheduling the past decade. The other is about a visit reset with one of the Zags’ top recruits, Isiah Harwell. … Jim Meehan talked with Kentucky beat writer Ben Roberts about Saturday’s game. … Jim also looks back at Wednesday’s rout of Portland … We have more from the Bluegrass State to pass along. … We also passed along the Kelly Olynyk trade news yesterday but have this piece to share as well. … By the way, did you happen to see Thursday’s Pearls Before Swine comic strip? If not, don’t miss it. If Stephen Pastis wants to know how to pronounce the last word, there are a few national announcers we know he should avoid asking. … Elsewhere in the WCC, USF had to rally to survive Pepperdine’s upset bid on Thursday night. … We missed this story on USD’s road win earlier in the week. They are so rare we wanted to pass it along.

EWU and Idaho: If you were only to look at the records, Saturday matchup between the Eastern and UI men is a mismatch. Ya, right. As if. Dan Thompson has a preview of what should be a tight game. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana’s men finished off a sweep of Northern Arizona, winning in Flagstaff. … Montana State led by double digits at one point and still lost at Northern Colorado. … Weber State handed Portland State another defeat, 84-72. … The Griz women lost their fourth consecutive game, this one to league-leading Northern Arizona in Missoula. … Montana State is on a roll, defeating visiting Northern Colorado. … Idaho State is happy with its football signing class.

Whitworth: The Pirates are doing what they do. Sitting atop the Northwest Conference’s standings for the men. One well-traveled player is playing a big part in that. Ethan Myers introduces us to Sullivan Menard.

Preps: Basketball playoffs at all levels in Washington are in full swing. Dave Nichols covered the Gonzaga Prep games last night and also has a roundup. … Madison McCord has a feature on a West Valley wrestler heading into regionals this weekend.

Seahawks: If halftime is your thing (instead of the commercials and football), then we have you covered with this history lesson.

Mariners: Cal Raleigh. That’s it. That’s the link. The M’s are lucky to have him. … How was the Mariners’ offseason? Average. … How about the farm system? Average.

Kraken: Seattle might have a homegrown defenseman soon.

Sounders: Holding preseason training in Spain couldn’t be a bad thing, could it?


• Enjoy your Friday. We will. Though we have to catch up on some things we didn’t get done yesterday. Isn’t that always the case? Until later …