Sport on hold: If there’s too much rock fighting, the NCAA’s glass house could collapse
SPORT UNDER CONTROL • We left the house yesterday. Went for a walk. Cleaned the air with some clear air. And then went back inside to watch some more rock fights.
• Love this term. rock fight. hate what it means Basketball shouldn’t be so physical. More flow is better. But when teams – we mean Houston and Auburn – decide to play rugby instead of basketball, the officials have no choice but to blow the whistle. Often. Don’t call it a ref show. Call it doing your job. And blame Kelvin Sampson and Bruce Pearl.
That’s their philosophy. Others have it too. Foul multiple times on each possession and dare to call the officials. Coaches who do this rarely lose that bet. The NBA has cleaned up their game enormously. It’s about time the NCAA did the same.
• OK, rant. Let’s celebrate what we saw. UCLA fought past Northwestern but lost another key player to a pretty bad ankle injury. Tennessee did everyone a favor and sent Duke home. Arkansas made sure there would be a new champion. Princeton looks like a real contender. San Diego State played the way we hate it but won. And Alabama, Houston and Texas look like the best of the best.
There are eight more NCAA men’s games today. Which ones are we looking forward to the most? Thanks for the question. We support Gonzaga for no other reason than that TCU coach Jamie Dixon attended Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, California. And we despise Notre Dame High. Rivalries never die. Ergo, everyone associated with the school is on our Sicilian hate-till-we-die list. Nice guy, Dixon. We had a nice chat with him about ten years ago. Doesn’t matter. He’s a Black Knight. And on our list.
We’re also hoping UConn, Kentucky, Miami and Michigan State find a way to win. That’s the only way… forget it. You don’t care about a bracket. Let us continue.
• We saw Washington State’s disappointing loss to Florida’s Gulf Coast yesterday in the women’s NCAA tournament. About halfway through we had two thoughts: despite the seeding, it was no surprise (oddsmakers had 12th-ranked FGCU as one-point favorites) and the fifth-ranked Cougars’ schedule at both ends was profoundly flawed.
FGCU wants to shoot 3-pointers. Actually thirty-one a game. Almost makes 12. Kamie Ethridge and her staff decided to take that away. They did it by not helping with the ride. Which exposed the Cougars’ relative lack of foot speed. Each Eagle seemed to have multiple straight drives to the rim for layups. FGCU scored 50 points in the paint in a 74-63 loss.
Turns out Washington state’s length might have been enough to push the Eagles into a bad shooting night. Help would have been in order with good closeouts, something the Cougars are more than capable of. But the worry of a gap, a kick out, and a slow close out must have been overwhelming.
At the offensive end, FGCU swarmed into the gaps themselves. penetration taken away. Well rested. And when the ball hit the post? Up to three eagles attacked. In the end, the cougars stopped getting it in. And the offensive faltered. No lanes, no post attack, no chance.
It reminded us of how Mike Montgomery attacked Tony Bennett’s post-doubles back in Bennett’s WSU days. Montgomery’s Bears played sets depending on where the double came from. Throw it in the post, load the double in, shield the back and kick it. Hit open shots and, a few possessions later, no more post doubles. Something that Bennett’s team did well became a liability so quickly.
The FGCU adapted what Washington State did. The same could not be said of the Cougars. After the game, Ethridge said she hoped her third straight loss in the NCAA opening round would be a “gut punch” for her team.
Most likely for the staff too.
• If you’re a baseball fan and weren’t a bit upset by the United States’ dramatic win over Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic last night, turn in your fan card. Although Trey Turner’s two-out, two-strike eighth-inning grand slam failed and the USA lost, the game — and the atmosphere — was unrivaled.
A sellout audience in Miami sold the entire game, delivering a human soundtrack that electrified the game. You could feel the emotions through the TV.
The four semi-finalists: the United States, Cuba, Japan and Mexico. The first two play today (4 p.m., FS1), the next two Monday (4 p.m., FS1).
• Spring sports are underway in the high schools. It’s the busiest time of the year with about a dozen sports taking place if you count both girls and boys.
Previews of these sports are available in today’s SR. The links are below.
WSU: The NCAA game is our main focus this morning. Colton Clark was there and has a game story about the 11-point loss, as well as another story about going forward. … We watched the ESPNU show, marveled at how much better it was than the one we watched Friday night, and wrote this TV take. … The baseball team fell at Oregon 14-8 in a pitcherless duel. … CJ Elleby is still out there, playing in the G League and hoping for another legitimate shot in the NBA. … Elsewhere in Pac-12 and college basketball, as noted above, UCLA kept the conference alive in the NCAA with a win over Northwestern. The Bruins have had a number of injuries. … Oregon still lives in the NIT. … Colorado too. …USC had a good season. … Arizona State left the NCAAs with the loss to TCU. … Maybe Arizona’s loss wasn’t so bad after all. Princeton is looking good. … In the women’s, Washington is gearing up for its second WNIT game. … Stanford will have Cameron Brink back for tonight’s NCAA game against Ole Miss. … Colorado knocked down Middle Tennessee State in its NCAA opener game. … UCLA defeated Sacramento State 67-45 to continue at home. … Utah is also the host and meets Princeton in the second round. … Arizona has won in the underdog role before. … On football news, Oregon State is on the rise. But can the beavers keep going like this? … Oregon has been in spring training for a few days and has a few injuries. … Arizona State has four quarterbacks to sort through. …Arizona has an athletic tight end.
Gonzaga: The Big 12 and GU. The two seem connected. Although we personally hope they never consummate the relationship in some kind of conference affiliation. Anyway, the connection is deep again today as the Zags meet TCU in the second round of the NCAA. Theo Lawson has a game preview. … As you might expect, Texan Drew Timme has friends on the Texas Christian University basketball team. Theo has this story too. And the key game tonight. … Dave Boling commends the Zags for playing the way we criticized above. … Jim Meehan documents the recent change in Julian Strawther’s game. … Jim also delves into Mark Few’s friendship with Dixon. Traitor. … Drew Timme has a tasty NIL deal with Pringles. Jim has this story. … Eventually, Jim spoke to Ryan Nembhard, Andrew’s brother. … Elsewhere in the WCC, John Feinstein has a great story about Saint Mary’s win. The Gaels take on UConn today. … The Oklahoma women capped Portland’s performance at the NCAA tournament with an 85-63 win in Los Angeles. And possibly some college careers.
EWU: Another local team will try to win a game against a member of the Big 12 today. Eastern meets Oklahoma State in Stillwater as part of the second round of the NIT. Dan Thompson has this preview. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, it took the state of Montana a lot of things to run right to win its NCAA first-round game. Not enough.
Preparations: Yes, Dave Nichols has a summary of Saturday’s action. Start there. … But spend today focusing on the spring sports previews. We have a handful to share. There’s one on softball, with an accompanying look at all the GSL teams. … Baseball and the teams are also covered. … athletics as well as the schools. … Golf includes boys and girls as well as the schools. … boys football is also played in the spring. … tennis is also played. … Dave also forwards the Winter All-League teams from the area.
Chiefs: What happened this season? Kevin Dudley tries to explain how Spokane struggled so hard and missed the postseason. … With the season almost over, Spokane ends with an 8-2 loss in Tri-City.
Mariners: Julio Rodriguez is back in camp. … Seattle rallied, but Cleveland held on to a win.
Seahawks: What a first week off for the Hawks.
Kraken: The goalkeeper went to the dressing room sick early. And Seattle’s chances of a big win over the Edmonton visit went with him. The Oilers won 6-4. … It’s time for the Kraken to resume their game.
Sonars: There were no hits at Lumen Field. Seattle and LAFC drew goalless.
• I hope you have some time this morning. We got up before 6 and still feel rushed trying to put this together. Can’t wait for May when things slow down. See you later …