A GRIP ON SPORTS • Here we are. Back to the weekend. And back to the NCAA Tournament. It starts just before noon today in these parts. It continues all day. Enjoy.
• College basketball is all the rage, isn’t it? Not only do the Sweet Sixteen games occur on this Saturday but the week just past was filled with news near and far.
Out in Cheney, after the head coach packed up his office and headed down to Portland, Eastern Washington turned to assistant David Riley. That won’t stop the remaining Eagles, however, from examining their options.
It doesn’t have anything to do with Riley’s selection, however. Not one bit. It’s more to do with the new open conduit allowed players to examine their options, courtesy of the pandemic and the NCAA’s revamped transfer rules. The portal, that mysterious entity with a Star Trek-like name, facilitates this – there are in the neighborhood of 1,000 players listed at this time – but hasn’t caused it.
That’s more on the NCAA and it’s decades-long subversion of players’ rights. Crack a door after a long night and anyone would race out to see what the sun looks like.
It may not be as it’s been, but it’s a peek into the future. A future that will keep every college basketball staff busy from the last day of the regular season to the first day of the next. We talked with a college coach this weekend and he was shocked with the overwhelming nature of it all. It’s what it is going to be folks.
For years we campaigned for a change in the transfer rules. Our proposed change was more limited in scope. Every college athlete should receive one free transfer during their eligibility. It would come with one caveat: If a coach leaves for another institution of his or her own volition, players from their previous school cannot join them without sitting out a season.
Such a logical step should have been adopted years ago. It would have given students a taste of the freedom coaches enjoy, without opening the door to the mass exodus we are seeing this offseason. But the NCAA dithered, as it often does, and by the time the organization read the writing on the walls it was too late. The wall had to come down. And the rush began.
• We usually examine the weekend TV schedule on Friday mornings, though we didn’t enter that realm yesterday. The reason was simple. Nothing overshadows the NCAA tourney. It should be the beginning, the end and the middle of your hours spent with sports.
Oh, sure. There is golf on. The match-play tournament, the only one of its kind presented by the PGA Tour. That’s interesting. There is also auto racing and soccer, hockey and the NBA. All fine choices if they are in your wheelhouse. But for the average person who only has a passing interest in sports, the NCAA tourney is it – busted bracket or not.
• There is a wildcard for this final March weekend as well. College football. Out in Cheney, Eastern Washington is hosting Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and its coaching staff made up of a handful of folks with deep EWU ties. Down in Moscow, the Vandals, coming back from some COVID-19 issues, welcome in Southern Utah.
It’s spring football with a huge twist.
Gonzaga: Even though the Zags aren’t playing today, there is news. Oh, sure, there is Jim Meehan’s story on Creighton, which is not stranger to the GU program. And there is his piece on Corey Kispert’s latest award status, this one being named one of the five Wooden Award finalists. That’s all pretty typical this time of year for the Bulldogs. What’s different, as John Blanchette explains, is the commitment early Friday from top-recruit Hunter Sallis. We passed along the news yesterday but Jim has a lot more in this story. … There are touristy things to do in Indianapolis. Ryan Collingwood swears there are. And he enumerates them. … Larry Weir has some things to say about Sallis’ commitment as well as other local issues. His thoughts fill up the latest Press Box podcast.
WSU: The baseball team opened a series in Tempe, losing 10-0 to Arizona State. … Around the Pac-12 and college basketball, you may have questions. We can pass along a few answers. … This weekend features three games with four Pac-12 schools. Why is that? Blame BYU. … The all-conference matchup occurs in the West on Sunday, with Oregon trying to avenge its regular-season loss to USC. Can the Ducks do it? Or will USC roll on? … Oregon State plays today against Loyola of Chicago. The Beavers’ run began long before the NCAA Tournament began. … Bill Walton is happy. … So is Mick Cronin, but facing Alabama tomorrow will test that smile. … Another Washington player entered the transfer portal. … Utah’s best player, Timmy Allen, plans to put his name in soon. … It looks as if the Utes will hire Utah State’s Craig Smith. … Arizona State has added a frontcourt transfer. … Arizona transfer Ira Lee is headed to George Washington. … In football news, Colorado has changed its defensive outlook. … Utah’s quarterback battle has a frontrunner. It’s Charlie Brewer. … WSU transfer Gunner Cruz is picking up Arizona’s offense.
EWU: The two breakout stars for the Eagles, Tanner and Jake Groves, entered the transfer portal yesterday. (And we have learned they have received considerable interest from Power 5 schools already.) Ryan has more in this story.
Idaho: As we mentioned above, the Vandals host Southern Utah today. Peter Harriman has a preview of the game, which helps kick off the second part of the Big Sky schedule. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Weber State and Northern Arizona meet in Ogden. … Idaho State has to shake off a tough loss to Eastern as they travel to eighth-ranked UC Davis.
Preps: Gonzaga Prep had little trouble with Ferris last night, winning 56-8 at G-Prep (though, due to the Albi work, it was a Saxon home game). Dave Nichols was there and has this story that includes the other GSL games. … Dave also has a roundup of other prep football action.
Chiefs: In its fourth game, Spokane played at home for the first time. But the results were the same. Kevin Dudley has the coverage of the Chiefs’ 5-0 loss to Seattle.
Mariners: Jarred Kelenic is headed to the minors to start the season. It was his injury that did him in. That’s the M’s story and they are sticking to it. … They lost yesterday as Marco Gonzales struggled in his last spring appearance.
Seahawks: Though Jarren Reed is gone, Al Woods is back. Not an even trade but it helps the Hawks bolster its pass rush.
• Before we head out for our Saturday duties, we want to take a moment to salute two authors who had as much to do with my life as anyone. We start with Beverly Cleary, who died yesterday at 104, a goal of mine if you want to know. Cleary’s young adult books were always known as an inspiration to young women everywhere, as her work featured strong-willed and independent girls like the ones I was overawed by in the 1960s. But I identified with Henry Huggins. A lot. Life seemed a bit of a mystery to Henry, as it did to me as I grew from a boy to a young man. He always found his way and that gave me hope. Still does. On the other end of the spectrum lived Larry McMurtry, an author I didn’t discover until I was a fully grown human. But not fully developed. McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove books, all four of them, took me to a world of evil and good, in that order, that still exists today, albeit with a deeper veneer of respectability. His characters were oddly different, mesmerizing and a little off-plumb. Like so many of the people we meet as we make this journey from childhood to old age, from Texas to Montana and everywhere in between. Until later …