When we saw that John and David Stockton finished second and third in our Best Athlete category in our readers poll this year, we knew we had to feature them in our annual Zags poster.
So Mike Bookey and I bandied some catchy headlines back and forth: The Family Swishness; Stockton and Son, Inc.; Longer Shorts, Same Hair; Chip Off the Old Stock’; Blue-Chip Stocktons; Generation Zag. Kudos to our art director, Chris Bovey, for a cool design.
Pick up our Best Of issue today to see what we finally chose; in the meantime, share your own best caption idea!
The NCAA tournament is fully underway right now and you should be watching it. Even if you're at work — especially if you're at work. Here's how to do that.
Here at the Spokane Arena, we're getting ready for the tip-off of what's quite likely to be a fascinating matchup between Harvard (12 seed) and Cincinnati (5 seed). Before the doors to the stadium opened, fans were already lined up to head into the game.
Two of those fans were David and Jill Henry, who flew from Cincinnati to Spokane — despite overbooked flights — to be here to cheer on their beloved Bearcats. That's them in the photo.
The husband and wife are both alums of the University of Cincinnati and decided early on that they were going to see the team play in the NCAA tournament.
"We had the week off, so we were just waiting on Sunday to see where we'd be heading," said Jill, who is at her first-ever NCAA tournament.
Then they had to track down tickets — and find a way to get to Spokane, but they made it. They've never been here, but find the town excellent so far. Mostly, though, they're just glad they made it. And, after a long winter in Ohio, they were just thankful that it wasn't snowing here.
As far as I'm concerned, the first two days of the NCAA tournament are a national holiday. And we at the Inlander will be treating it as such, especially considering there are second and third round (ol' timers like me still call these "first and second round") games being played right here in Spokane.
We will be on press row for all the games tomorrow and Saturday and will be giving you coverage of all the happenings on the court and in the stands, where we'll talk to fans who've traveled from far and wide to see some hoops in the Lilac City.
And pick up this week's issue of the paper, which happens to be our Best Of the Inland Northwest issue, for previews on all the games happening at the Arena.
Today at the Spokane Arena, it was clear how big this event is for the city as media from all over the place had assembled to get a look at the eight teams practice. We caught some of the Delaware Blue Hens practice as they warmed up for their date with Michigan State tomorrow afternoon.
If you want to get a look at the teams, practices are open to the public and are totally free. The last practice features New Mexico State and starts at 6:40 pm. Head down there.
If you like what you see, there are still a few tickets available.
Mitch Holmberg’s final season with the Spokane Chiefs has been a good one. We wrote about the 20-year-old back in February:
Defensive play was once a weakness for Holmberg, a right wing who isn't all that big (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) or physical (less than 100 career penalty minutes). He's never been drafted by a National Hockey League team, even after last season, when he totaled 39 goals and 80 points in 66 games.
"I thought I had a good year," Holmberg says. "I think it's hard whenever you don't get drafted ... [but] it's kind of a blessing in disguise that I wasn't. It always pushes you harder if you can prove someone wrong in the long run."
Since then, he’s been named the Chiefs’ Player of the Year and Most Sportsmanlike Player (for the third year in a row), broke the Chiefs’ record for career goals and earned the Bob Clarke trophy for leading the Western Hockey League in regular-season scoring.
Holmberg’s franchise record-breaking goal — his 62nd of the season — came last Friday, as Spokane beat the Tri-City Americans, 4-3, in front of a sold-out crowd at the Spokane Arena. He broke the record of 146 held by Pat Falloon, who was inducted into the Chiefs hall of fame this past fall.
The Chiefs are taking on the Victoria Royals for their first round Western Hockey League playoff series beginning this Saturday, March 22, with home games on March 26, 27 and 31.
Read the previous feature about Holmberg here.
Zag Watch has been on hiatus for a bit, and for that, we extend sincere apologies. But Zag Watch was on Seahawk Watch for a good stretch and has been celebrating the Super Bowl championship ever since. Then we got into reruns of Bay Watch and things really got off the rails. But we're back, just in time for the Zags to head down the stretch of their WCC regular season.
Tonight, Gonzaga heads into the Marriott Center, a cavernous dome in the middle of Provo, Utah, where 21,000 people hopped up on caffeine-free Diet Coke will dress in matching shirts and scream wholeheartedly in the hopes that doing so will force the Zags to lose. Yup, the Zags are heading back to BYU, their first trip to Provo since that slugfest a year ago that ultimately ended with Gonzaga locking up a No. 1 national ranking.
Now, I'm not a betting man, but it was tough not to notice that the shadowy figures who decide the betting line on college basketball games have BYU as a three point favorite tonight. Sure, the Cougars are at home, where they've won all their games except for a squeaker to then 21-ranked Iowa State back in November, but the Zags already soundly defeated BYU last month in the Kennel thanks to some hot shooting from Kevin Pangos (and everyone else that night). And, there's the little detail that BYU has has some oddly bad losses this season, including a shellacking at the hands of Loyola Marymount (the last-place team in the WCC).
I'm not saying that Few's boys are going to run away with this by any means — a squad that shoots like BYU (see more on their guard Tyler Haws below) and is capable of a break-neck pace can get after you in a hurry — it just seems odd to be thinking of them as underdogs going into this. But perhaps the oddsmakers were figuring that BYU will come out on fire, considering that if they don't win this, they will miss out on an NCAA tournament bid for the second consecutive year.
One thing the Zags will have on their side is the game time. It's set for an 8 pm tipoff (ESPN2) which is 9 pm in the Mountain Time Zone. The late start might make for a smaller crowd...and maybe some sleepy Cougars.
SNAGGING THE WCC CROWN
Tonight, Gonzaga has a chance to secure its second straight outright WCC regular season conference championship. They are guaranteed at least a share of the title already, thanks to BYU, St. Mary's and San Francisco (all with five losses) sitting in what's essentially a three-way tie for second place. But the Zags would have to lose all of their remaining games for there to be a sharing scenario.
KEEP AN EYE ON HAWS
No, you're probably not a BYU fan, but if you don't get at least a moderate kick out of watching the Cougars' Tyler Haws play, you need basketball fan lessons. He is as deadly an offense weapon as exists in the college game today, complete with the ability to, like he did in a 3OT loss to Portland, drop in 48 points if you let him. Haws is currently the nation's fourth leading scorer with 24.1 points per game. Look for Gonzaga's defensive ace Gary Bell Jr. to spend a lot of time guarding Haws tonight.
Remember a few months ago when this very blog was worrying that Sam Dower's injury was going to hurt the Zags' season? Yeah, that hasn't happened. Sammy Jr. has come back in a mean way over the last few weeks, including a dominant 25 point, 15 rebound game against LMU last Saturday in front of his folks (and former roommate Kelly Olynyk), who flew into town for Senior Day. It's nice to see the big guy finishing his college career strong.
It's a little bit early to start guessing where the Zags might end up come Selection Sunday, but things would have to be bad in a sort of Roland Emmerich disaster movie sort of way for Gonzaga not to make the dance, so it's OK to speculate a bit. Last year, the Zags got some love from the selection committee with a number one seed (which was hard not to give them considering their top spot in the polls at the time). This year, don't expect anything near that high. Right now, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has them as an eight seed.
It may have been easy to miss during Sunday's Super Bowl, but a Pacific Northwest newspaper photographer had an unexpected, up-close encounter with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson during a run into the sidelines. Joe Barrentine, a former Spokesman-Review photographer, now working at The News Tribune in Tacoma traveled to New Jersey last week for the big game.
Early in the first quarter, Wilson made a dash to his left out of bounds and plowed into Barrentine, who kept on shooting photos the whole time like a total pro. Wilson paused to help Barrentine up and went on to demolish the Broncos. Barrentine was not injured and posted this first-person account at The News Tribune today.
Barrentine shook off his brush with Wilson and went on to shoot tons of great photos throughout the rest of the game. The collision later ended up making a highlight reel on ESPN, which one of Barrentine's many friends was helpful enough to post to Facebook.
I was fortunate enough to work alongside Joe at my college paper at Washington State University. I'm glad he made it back home in one piece. Wilson couldn't have picked a nicer guy to crash into, but as Joe now gets to brag:
"I was the only guy to tackle Wilson all night."
Former Gonzaga Prep standout Ryan Nicholas doesn’t root for the Zags.
“I definitely did, especially when I was younger,” he says.
These days, the senior forward is in the business of beating, rather than supporting, Gonzaga. Nicholas and his Portland Pilots will visit Gonzaga tonight, looking for a second straight win over his hometown’s team.
Nicholas, the 2010 Greater Spokane League MVP, was far from the only talented athlete during his days at Gonzaga Prep. Six of his teammates went on to play for NCAA Division I teams. Most notable among them are Gonzaga’s David Stockton and Washington State’s Travis Long, who currently plays for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
It was during high school that his feelings towards the Zags started to change. Nicholas committed to the University of Portland before the start of his senior season. The Pilots’ West Coast Conference affiliation, and the chance to play the Zags didn’t come into play when he was trying to decide on a school.
Nicholas didn’t deny that playing the Zags twice a year does have its perks.
“It’s nice to go back every year,” he said, “it’s a cool experience to be able to share that with friends and family.”
Visiting teams are given an allotment of tickets to hand out to friends or family. In the always sold out Kennel, it’s not easy to get a seat. Even if you’re related to one of the players.
“I have so much family there that I barely have enough for all of them,” Nicholas said.
Hopefully he has enough this time because, not only will this be his last game in Spokane but, it comes as he is playing the best basketball of his career. Averaging 8.9 rebounds per game, Nicholas is the WCC’s leading rebounder.
His minutes and points per game are down somewhat from last season, but that’s no fault of his. This year’s Portland team is much better and more balanced than it has been in years past. Over the past 10 seasons, the Pilots have defeated the Zags once — on Jan. 9. This Pilots team did what none over the past decade were able to do. It was an easy victory in Portland, 82-73, in which Nicholas contributed eight points and nine rebounds.
Over Nicholas’ career the Pilots have played a non-conference schedule more difficult than even Gonzaga fans are accustomed to. In November, they traveled to East Lansing, Mich., for a date with then No. 1 Michigan State. The Pilots played twice at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, about which Nicholas said, “Playing at Kentucky, there are so many more people [than at Gonzaga], it’s like an NBA arena.” That experience doesn’t mean he and the Pilots are ready for the Kennel, where, he says, “you can literally feel the students.”
The Zags will need that energy on Wednesday if they want to beat a team that knows it can beat them and isn’t afraid of their building. Nicholas, obviously, wants to win. But, win or lose, he’ll be happy about one thing.
“It’s cool to be home,” he said, “we don’t get much time at home.”
Gonzaga vs. Portland • 8 pm tonight • McCarthey Athletic Center • Televised live on KHQ6
America likes a winner. That’s the takeaway from this map released today based on which team Facebook users were rooting for during the Super Bowl yesterday. The Broncos weren’t hurting for fans — Colts country stayed loyal to Peyton Manning, and 49ers fans must have been cheering for the team that’s not the Seahawks — but the Seahawks got the same bump from disgruntled New England fans. And check out that blue block in the upper left — that may as well be considered the official geographic definition of the Pacific Northwest.
And it’s a big improvement from the map we saw before the NFC Championship game, when the Northwest fandom was up against pretty much the rest of the country.
• 50 million unique users on Facebook posted, liked or commented about something related to the Super Bowl on Sunday.
•More than 24.9 million Tweets were posted about the game and halftime show, beating last year’s 24.1 million Tweets.
•Percy Harvin’s kickoff return for a touchdown at the beginning of the second half was the most popular moment on both Facebook and Twitter. (The second-most popular moment for both was Jermaine Kearse’s game-sealing touchdown toward the end of the third quarter.)
•The most-mentioned players for each team on Twitter were Percy Harvin (followed by Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson) and Peyton Manning.
•The halftime show by Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers got more tweets than anything Denver did the whole game.
UPDATE: Deadspin just posted the pre-Super Bowl fandom map, which makes for a great contrast. On the left is the pregame fandom map (comparable to the 49ers map above) that shows which team has the most Facebook fans in each county. On the right is the map from during the game (same as the top map in this post), showing which team people were actively supporting. So, as the game unfolded, either people switched allegiences or Seahawks fans came out of the woodwork as their team dominated. Probably a little of both — it was a good day to be a Seahawk fan.
The whole state’s gone crazy for the Seahawks ahead of today’s big game. A small sampling...
...Skittles make sense. But good luck finding them — people are reporting statewide shortages of the regular kind.
This Skittles-covered football sold for $5,200 on ebay.
Or how about a portrait of Marshawn Lynch made out of Skittles by Death Cab for Cutie bassist Nick Harmer?
Beer makes sense. 12th Can, how could you resist? (Click Distributing told us yesterday that it’s pretty much completely sold out in the Spokane area.)
...or for the wine folks, 12th Man wine from Northwest Cellars. (The first shipment at Nectar Tasting Room sold out almost immediately.)
Mmmm, Skittles sausage.
Skittles put to use at Dawn of the Donut...
And Seahawks in all forms of cake: cupcakes...
Of course, we're drinking Seahawks colors. (Haven't heard any reports of Blue Curacao shortages, but that wouldn't be surprising.)
Seahawks nails for the ladies...
...and Seahawks haircuts for the gents.
Seahawks spirit all the way from Schweitzer...
...to the Spokane City Council chambers.
Seahawk crock pots...
Even convenience store delis got into the spirit.
And if you want to know where the symbolism all got started, check out this great story.
Where's the pic of the guy with the magnificent beard?
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