SPORT UNDER CONTROL • Now we know. Gonzaga will face Norfolk State on Saturday to begin what the Zags are hoping to be a six-game run for the national title. If it is the state of Norfolk that played the second half of its box office on Thursday night, the Bulldogs will be rolling. If it’s the first half team this could be interesting.
• Who are we kidding? Gonzaga is a 35 point favorite or somewhere close. That is much. Even if the Zags do not cover with 15 points, for example, they still win with 20 points. Would that be okay?
A one-point win at the end of March is more than okay. It is all that is needed. Win six games with six points and guess what? You won the national championship. The banner doesn’t say how, it just says who. And who are you? A tough road with lots of tight turns and potholes is still a road you want to drive on as much as you would on a straight freeway. And a few years later, these winding roads became legend.
Remember if Gonzaga is about to win a game without doing his best. The NCAA tournament is a journey at the bottom line. Sixty-eight teams play 67 games. Sixty-seven teams go home without the ultimate prize. A team grabs it.
• UCLA didn’t seem to be moving on last night. The Pac-12’s most enigmatic team revealed all of their enigmatic nature in their play-in competition with the State of Michigan. There were bad Bruins in the first half. The good Bruins showed up to start the second – and the overtime. But the confusing Bruins were there too often.
However, they will continue to play BYU next Saturday. And Michigan state will be in East Lansing wondering how a season that started with so much promise turned into a disappointment.
• The NCAA main draw begins this morning. By the time you’re reading this we may be well into the first round. So it is probably appropriate to ask which games fascinate you the most today.
As a basketball fan, the last of the night, Villanova with the fifth seed against Winthrop with the twelfth seed (from 6:50 a.m. on TBS), stands all out top of my list. Doesn’t it seem like the selection committee is now aiming to put at-risk teams in the fifth seed just to keep the 5v12 problems going? The wildcats are vulnerable. Jay Wright’s team will play without senior point guard Collin Gillespie, the heart and soul of the group. He is out for the year due to an injury. Well worth checking out to see how Villanova is doing.
Another interesting story is available when Chicago’s Loyola takes eight seeds against Georgia Tech, the surprising ACC tournament winner. If you don’t mind getting plastered in the middle of the day (it shows up at 12:50 p.m. on TBS), taking a shot every time Sister Jean’s face pops up on the screen would be a fun drinking game > Anyway, these are the games I’m looking forward to. But I’m really looking forward to seeing the results appear in the top right corner after two years with no opening weekend and move to a tight end. Just to see who can continue celebrating and who has to desperately collapse at the end of their season.
• Winter is almost over. That said, it’s time for the Spokane Chiefs to kick off the Western Hockey League season.
If there’s one more paragraph we’ve written over the past 12 months that highlights the craziness of this year’s COVID-19 Sports scene, I’m not sure what it is.
The WHL schedule starts tonight for the Chiefs playing the Seattle Thunderbirds in Seattle. There will be no fans in the facility. No one will be at the Spokane Arena next Friday when the Chiefs have their home opener. In a few weeks the schedule for 24 games will be over. And we’ll be in the middle of spring.
Gonzaga: Another day, a new All America selection for Corey Kispert’s first team. Jim Meehan tells us which one was announced on Thursday. … Jim delves into the bond between the coaches at GU, Illinois and Baylor, three schools that are favorites for the title. … The same story, which is told longer, is available from The Athletic. … I’m old enough to remember the time the S-R handed out blue Gonzaga cheer cards. Maggie Quinlan tells us what the school was up to this week. … Carolyn Lamberson investigates who all of the nation’s celebrities have chosen to win the tournament. Gonzaga was a common choice. … The women have seniors to rely on, but Jim Allen tells us that the future is bright with the youth of the roster in key positions. … The West Region has many familiar faces. … Elsewhere at the West Coast Conference, BYU was surprised to find it expected to play with blue blood against the state of Michigan. The Cougars will face an even bluish UCLA in the first round. … The team posted some videos last night. I am sure you saw them. … Saint Mary’s NIT loss has just bowed the dreadful basketball season in the Bay Area. … Shawn Bradley is trying to make something positive out of his bicycle accident.
WSU: The school’s only NCAA basketball representative had a remarkable season. Theo Lawson went through hundreds of moments and picked five that really shaped her successful run to the tournament for the first time in 30 years. … All around the Pac-12 and college basketball, the future of the Pac-12 networks is cloudy at best. … As we said above, UCLA is moving into the lead after its deficit win over the state of Michigan. The Bruins and the conference members with budget deficits needed this. … USC’s Evan Mobley will lead the Trojans into their game with Drake, who also won a play-in competition. … Oregon State turned its season around. How did the beavers do it? … Oregon is more than Chris Duarte, but he’s really important to the ducks. … Tad Boyle’s coaching career is the opposite of Colorado’s opponents Georgetown and Patrick Ewing. … Utah is looking for a new coach. What should his résumé look like? And does it have to be a « he »? … On the football news, it’s time for Arizona to hold spring training, the first under new coach Jedd Fisch. … What’s up with Washington recruiting? … Stanford’s ex-quarterback is ready for the NFL. … The Colorado employees have a household name. … Utah has renewed confidence in its defensive backs.
EMU: Speaking of a successful run: Shantay Legans had one of the leading men in the East in his four-year term in office. How did this happen? Legans worked hard and wisely sought advice from a diverse group of followers. Ryan Collingwood records his journey in this story. … Ryan has also made a few calls to solicit input from players and coaches whose teams have angered Kansas in the past. Your answers appear in this explanatory piece. … Larry Weir hit the groundwork with former East trainer Kirk Earlywine for the latest Press Box podcast.
Idaho: The records were mixed, but the Vandal men’s and women’s basketball teams shared an experience. Both had to deal with the effects of COIVD-19 on multiple occasions and in a variety of ways. Peter Harriman has more to this story.
Whitworth: The pirates basketball season is over. Both women and men have canceled their weekend streak with Whitman over COVID-19 concerns. Dan Thompson has the news and reactions.
Chiefs: As mentioned above, Spokane begins its 24-game WHL journey tonight. Dan has a preview.
Mariners: Spring training seems like a start every year, but for many players, including Julio Rodriguez, it’s just an extension of a never-ending year after the winter ball. … The roster is taking shape. … Hey, the M won yesterday.
Seahawks: After the Hawks swapped one of their few draft picks for an offensive lineman and re-signed the center Ethan Pocic, are you finished with your advance solution? May be. But there is still more to be done. … The absence of draft picks is by design. … The team needs a real threat as a third recipient.
Sounders: It’s time for some of the younger players to take on bigger roles.
• Thank goodness I finished this morning’s column. It’s days like this when I wish I could sleep, wake up slowly, put on my UC Irvine gear, and settle for the anteaters as they go on their annual NCAA tournament trek. But that fantasy is going to have to wait – damn gauchos – since UCI didn’t deserve a big berth – damn selection committee – and I still get up every morning and float around on the keyboard. See you later …
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