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

A Grip on Sports: We take another leap today, which is appropriate every four years or so in local collge hoops

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Thank goodness March is here. After the four weeks of Feb … wait, what? It’s still February? A leap year? Again? Didn’t we just have one last year? We have to wait one more day for the madness? Darn it.


• OK, we admit it. We knew. And we’ve used a similar opening paragraph sometime in the not-so-distant past. But after more than a dozen years doing this column day after day, you could cut us some slack. Once every four years – or less – isn’t bad to repeat something, right?

And, unless our fingers aren’t working, we counted seven leap days since 23rd-ranked Gonzaga last missed the NCAA Tournament – if you include today. Which we must. And the Bulldogs have a chance tonight, in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s home, to ensure that count doesn’t come to an end.

The Zags meet USF tonight (8, ESPN2) in San Francisco’s Chase Center, home of the Warriors. Four miles from the Dons’ campus. In what will be, if San Francisco continues to play well, a Quad 1 game for both, according to reports. That helps each in their quest for an at-large berth, if neither can win the WCC tournament in a week.

Before then, however, the Zags have another key game Saturday, as March really arrives in the form of the last-regular-season-game showdown against 17th-ranked Saint Mary’s. In Moraga.

When the conference schedule was announced long ago, we’re sure many GU fans saw the March 2 matchup and thought “I hope the  conference title is clinched by then.” A hope that has come true, in a sort of through-the-looking-glass way. The Gaels can do just that with a win at Pepperdine tonight.

• The Gonzaga women clinched their conference crown a while back. They closed out their first 16-0 WCC mark ever Thursday night with a 90-40 demolishing of Portland, last year’s conference tournament champion.

Since then, the Pilots lost quite a few key players and tumbled in the conference standings. The Zags? They showcased their super-senior talent last night, with all five players honored on Senior Night scoring in double figures.

Now comes a wait. No. 16 Gonzaga has a bye this weekend and a double bye in Las Vegas. They won’t play again until March 11, in the semifinals. The conference, in all its (lack-of) wisdom, is still taking off Sunday in the tournament, despite BYU – the catalyst of the policy – having left for the Big 12. And, by giving GU the final regular-season bye, it assured a possible momentum-killing lengthy layoff.

• No layoff for 19th-ranked Washington State. After their desert split last week, the Cougar men are back at again tonight in Pullman. USC in town. WSU trying to stay hard on ninth-ranked Arizona’s tail. And there is a juicy subplot: How do the Cougar faithful treat DJ Rodman?

You might remember last year’s Senior Night, when Rodman caused an uproar – in a good way – by unexpectedly announcing he would return to Pullman for another year. Kyle Smith hugged him and seemed to be tearing up.

A few weeks later, Rodman left town and never came back, telling the world through his social media he was transferring to USC.

Now he’s back. For one big game. With WSU 12-5 in conference and the Trojans 5-11. Do you think there will be a few boos, or will the Coug fans decide the best path forward is to ignore him and root their team to a needed win?

We hope it’s the latter, at least as far as the ignore part is concerned. But we expect a lot of the former.

• Both Eastern basketball teams face key games tonight too. It may not be March just yet, but we’re sure the women’s game in Missoula (6 p.m., ESPN+) and the men’s in Cheney (6 p.m., ESPN+) vs. Montana, will have March-like intensity.

The Griz men have fought their way to second place, their 10-5 mark two games back of Eastern with three to play. The women are also two games back, but in third (Northern Arizona is in-between). Both games are basically elimination contests for Montana. And we predict both will be battles.


WSU: Rodman left for the money. He got it. No criticism about that. But he also left because, as he told the Orange County Register, “(WSU is) a rebuilding program, and I wanted to spend my last year and win.” Huh. The best-laid plans and all that. Greg Woods has the game preview. … The Cougars are a hot item. … We linked a Jon Wilner column yesterday concerning Kirk Schulz and the Cougars. We do it again today as it ran in the S-R. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Wilner has his Best of the West rankings in the Mercury News. … Washington isn’t one of those teams. … There were a trio of men’s games last night. In Eugene, the Ducks rallied late and pulled away from Oregon State, 78-71. Was it the last meeting between Oregon and the Beavers? … In Tempe, Arizona State stayed closer to Arizona but the Wildcats still won 85-67. … Colorado was able to avenge its earlier loss at California, topping the Bears 88-78 in Boulder. … This is a key week for the Utah Utes, no matter the gender. … UCLA has no more excuses. … Caitlin Clark made sure to leave no doubt she’s the best scorer in women’s major college history last night as she passed Lynnette Woodard’s career mark from the early-1980s. … Oregon State’s Scott Rueck cherishes all his games against Stanford and Tara VanDerveer. … It’s time for Colorado to get back on the winning track. … JuJu Watkins seems certain to be the face of women’s college hoop for a few years. As former USC player Cheryl Miller once was. … UCLA has a leader in its own right. … Arizona is making a run with a depleted squad. … Cal and Oregon are set to battle with both needing a win. … In football news, John Canzano has thoughts on how much the conference has gone through in the past year and the leadership needed ahead. … Wilner has a column in the Mercury News today which highlights the football-driven changes in college athletics over the past seven weeks. … When Kalen DeBoer left Washington for Alabama, there was a lot of grumbling from Husky fans. The players? They understood. … New coach Jedd Fisch has attracted another quality player to Seattle. … Oregon State is losing an assistant coach.

Gonzaga: We were in McCarthey last night, not only to watch the game but to also say goodbye to quality group of seniors. No, not the ones on the court, but they were worth acknowledging by the 6,000 in attendance. We mean the ones who sit in the same area as Kim. The core group has sat in the same seats for a decade or more. Not sure any of us there thought the final margin would be 50 points, though. Greg Lee has the game story and Colin Mulvany the photo gallery from the rout. … Jim Meehan has the preview and the key matchup for the men’s game tonight as well as a Q&A with a San Francisco Chronicle writer who covers college hoops. … Theo Lawson looks at the venue and what moving the game down the hill means for USF. … USA Today did the same. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Saint Mary’s standing is growing.

EWU: Win tonight at home and the Eagle men clinch their second consecutive regular-season title. Dan Thompson digs into that and more in this game preview. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana finished its football schedule for 2025. … Matt Logie has pinpointed the soul of his Montana State team. … Northern Arizona’s women hope to catch Eastern this weekend.

Preps: The State basketball tournaments opened Wednesday with loser-out games at three venues. Dave Nichols was in Tacoma and covered the Gonzaga Prep girls’ tough 49-46 win over Lake Stevens. … We can also pass along this story on Rogers’ 69-61 loss in Yakima’s 2A tournament to Sammamish’s boys as part of this Yakima roundup. … Dan Thompson has coverage of the B boys at the Arena and there is this story on the B girls.

Chiefs: Spokane was in Kamloops Wednesday night, facing the last-place Blazers and holding an opportunity to earn some playoff breathing room. Instead, the Chiefs fell 5-2. Dave has more in this story.

Seahawks: Their former players at the Combine loved playing for members of the new Seattle coaching staff.

Mariners: At one point we thought the best thing about Colt Emerson was his name. Now we’re beginning to believe it is his game. … Julio Rodriguez should be back this weekend. … Though the M’s lost Wednesday, Cal Raleigh hit a home run.

Kraken: Will Spokane’s Kailer Yamamoto’s time in Seattle be over soon? He’s not playing much and the trade deadline is near.


• We have no problem with leap years. Why should we? Have to keep the calendar on-track and humming somehow. What we do have a problem is the day being in February, the middle of winter. Let’s move it to June, for one more day of summer. And yes, we’re kidding. We know June isn’t usually warm enough around these parts to be considered “summer.” Until later …