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

A Grip on Sports: A Saturday in winter with great college and high school basketball action demands snow, doesn’t it?

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Not sure we were ready for the view outside the window this morning. A perfect tableau … for Dec. 25. Snow more than an inch deep. Stuck on trees. Car windows. Light poles. We look forward to days like this around the holidays but not on the second of March. We guess it’s good the basketball schedule at every level is so deep.


• It’s the penultimate weekend for most of college hoops royalty conferences. The Power Six schedule makers went all out. Handed us five Top 25 matchups today on TV, though unless they have Nostradamus’ DNA, there is no sure way to ensure such things.

And yet here we are. The games we are most interested in, among that handful? In order:

• No. 23 Gonzaga (22-6) at No. 17 Saint Mary’s (23-6), 7 p.m. PST, ESPN: This goes without saying. The Zags are already included in many mock brackets (and among our guarantees), though there are some folks who still aren’t convinced. Saint Mary’s is already the WCC regular season champion and tournament top seed. What’s at stake? A lot, not the least of which for both is another Quad 1 win, in case neither wins the WCC auto bid and the selection committee starts acting weird.

• No. 5 Marquette (21-6) at No. 12 Creighton (20-8), 11:20 a.m., Fox: The Big East is again a big deal. Winning on the road would be a feather for the Golden Eagles, as they are still in the running for a top-four NCAA seed.

• No. 4 Tennessee (21-6) at No. 14 Alabama (19-8), 5 p.m., ESPN: A couple things here. The best player in the SEC this season is Dalton Knecht, who played at Northern Colorado last year (and wasn’t the conference player of the year, as Eastern’s Steele Venters, now rehabbing an ACL at Gonzaga, earned that honor). The SEC lead is on the line. And, most importantly, for us anyway, this is the game that precedes GU at Saint Mary’s on ESPN. If it runs late, we have to stay up later. Not good.

• No. 7 Kansas (21-6) at No. 15 Baylor (19-8), 10 a.m., ABC: No explanation needed. These two schools are not fond of each other. Homecourt means a lot in this recent rivalry, mainly because the Jayhawks don’t have it.

• No. 24 Florida (19-8) at No. 18 South Carolina (22-5), 9 a.m., ESPN: Last on our list. Yes, the Gamecocks are really good. And Florida has earned its ranking. But, c’mon. There are better games to watch today.

Want to know a couple? We’re here to help.

• UCLA (14-14) at No. 19 Washington State (21-7), 4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks: The Cougars are hard on Arizona’s heels in the conference race. UCLA’s name still holds cachet, though its record and NET ranking doesn’t. Win today and WSU goes into the last week of conference play – at home against the Huskies – with a shot at its first title, especially if the next game results in an upset. A loss could hurt the Cougs’ NCAA seeding.

• Oregon (19-9) at No. 6 Arizona (22-6), 11 a.m., ESPN: This is the Ducks’ last stand. Win in Tucson, make a good Pac-12 tournament run and they may get in the NCAA tourney. Lose today and it’s win the automatic berth or bust.

• Virginia (21-8) at No. 10 Duke (22-6), 3 p.m., ESPN: Local kids – Shadle Park High and Eastern Washington’s Jake Groves and Lake City’s Blake Buchanan – with a chance to play in Cameron on a Saturday in March. Yes, sir. Wish we could have afforded to make the trip.

By the way, the mid-majors? They begin their conference tournaments this week.

• Let’s switch gears.

We spent an afternoon watching the Gonzaga Prep girls’ practice during high school basketball’s first week in November. As we recall, it was a decent day. No snow on the ground as we walked into Prep’s gym. That’s not the case today around here. In Tacoma? Raining, maybe. But dry in the Dome, where the Bullpups will play for the 4A title.

Not going to lie. Didn’t see that coming in November. The Pups had a good core of experience and youth, strength and quickness, but among the last two large-school teams still on the court March 2? Nope. Didn’t see it. Credit to Geoff Arte, his staff and the girls. They’ve earned this. And it’s just another reminder – Mead playing for the 3A title, something we certainly thought possible, if not likely, is another – to never underestimate the Greater Spokane League’s strength in the sport.

It is the best girls’ basketball league in the state just about every year. Has been since forever.

• There are also championships on the line in 10 other games, girls and boys, from Tacoma through Yakima to Spokane, today.

Maybe it is appropriate the morning dawned with snow on the ground. The most-exciting winter sport has its most exciting high school day as winter winds down with one last blast of inclement weather.

Not ideal, maybe, but, actually, yeah, perfect.


WSU: The Cougars don’t have to play perfectly today. Just good enough to get by the Bruins. Sort of like they did Thursday against visiting USC. And the same folks need to step up, along with Myles Rice, who hasn’t in a while. Greg Woods is in Pullman, will scrape the snow off his ride and head to Beasley. But first, his preview of the game. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, we linked Jon Wilner’s column about change earlier in the week. It ran in the S-R today. … He also has a mailbag in the Mercury News today with some WSU and OSU questions. … John Canzano had a 1-on-1 interview with the new commissioner. … These NIL rules are dumb. … Speaking of NIL, this is good way to spend the money. … Christian Caple, a year in on his own, is still pumped to be covering Washington sports. The Huskies are holding Senior Day today against USC. … Oregon State just doesn’t have enough inside to compete consistently. … Colorado is also set for Senior Day, both genders. … Utah doesn’t have huge at-large hopes. … Behind the bench is a different view for one former Arizona State player. … The Utah women are still trying to ensure a Pac-12 tourney bye. … So is Oregon State. … Arizona says goodbye to its seniors. … Finally, the NFL Combine isn’t for the stars.

Gonzaga: Let’s see, Jim Meehan has a rewind of Thursday’s win in San Francisco and Theo Lawson has a preview of tonight’s game across the Bay and the key matchup. That about covers it. … The baseball team lost a Friday doubleheader at BYU, part of a local roundup.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Montana State has supplied a sanctuary for one player. … We’ve met Idaho State’s Brayden Parker. His Senior Day should be something special. … Portland State is at Sacramento State today. … Montana is about ready to begin spring football. … UC Davis holding a football celebration next weekend.

Whitworth: A strong game from Sullivan Menard lifted the Pirates to a 78-73 overtime win over host Cal Lutheran in the NCAA Division III tournament last night. Ethan Myers has this story. The Pirates will play Claremont-Mudd-Scripps tonight with a chance to move on to the Sweet Sixteen.

Preps: Dave Nichols is in Tacoma and has stories on State 4A/3A girls, the same for the boys and another on G-Prep’s boys being eliminated. … We have coverage of the 2A/1A action in Yakima. Deer Park’s girls are still in the running for the 1A title. … Over at the Arena, Greg Lee has coverage of the 2B boys, Dan Thompson has the 1B boys, plus there is a roundup of the other local results. … All of the stories are linked here.

Chiefs: With their home ice covered by State B basketball, Spokane had a key road game in Prince George on Friday. The Chiefs won, 5-4, in overtime.

Mariners: Good news about Matt Brash. He will be back at some point this season. … A local Seattle kid had a great day for the M’s.

Kraken: It was 100 years ago Seattle’s first top hockey franchise bit the dust.

Storm: There are new faces in Seattle pro sports. New leaders. It’s the changing of the guard.

Sounders: Seattle, and a few other MLS teams, will play in the U.S. Open Cup after all. … The injury replacement goalie is living the dream.


• Another day, another dollar, another doughnut. Man, this low-carb diet is taking its toll. We would love a grease bar right about now. But nope. Have some goals. Want to reach them. You know what? It’s madness to do it early March. Until later …