Friday, March 25, 2016

All the Gonzaga Sweet 16 buzz you need to know

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 2:15 PM


First things first: Gonzaga plays Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament tonight at the United Center in Chicago at 6:40 pm on CBS. That tip time could be moved back if the game prior goes over, so keep that in mind.

Here are some other things to know. 

• Gonzaga played its best basketball of the season last weekend, despite getting a seemingly low 11 seed. Here's more on that. 

• Syracuse just barely made the tournament. But as a 10 seed, they got the benefit of playing Middle Tennessee State, who beat Michigan State. Syracuse then demolished MTSU.

• Last year, Syracuse sat out the NCAA tournament as punishment for a long habit of breaking NCAA rules. This year, legendary coach Jim Boeheim was suspended for nine games for that malfeasance. So, if you need some moral high ground going into this game, there's that.

• Syracuse plays a tough zone on defense and a lot of teams struggle with that. Gonzaga's Josh Perkins and Kyle Wiltjer are apparently not scared of said zone.

• People the world over are doing something called "The Few" to show support for the Zags. It's basically a handstand, which is what coach Mark Few has performed as a locker room celebration after a few big wins. Here's a lot of people who love to #DoTheFew.

This video should get you pumped up — as well as well-informed — for tonight's game:

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How much will it cost to follow Gonzaga to the Sweet 16 in Chicago?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 1:36 PM

Chicago's favorite hoopster is memorialized outside the United Center.
  • Chicago's favorite hoopster is memorialized outside the United Center.

You might have heard some word about Gonzaga's men's basketball team making it to the Sweet 16, and while that's exciting from a sports perspective, it's daunting for anyone hoping to travel with the team to its next game or two. 

The first two rounds were in Denver, a considerably easy travel effort from Spokane. Friday, the Zags play in Chicago against Syracuse, and if they win, they have another game on Sunday. 

Let's break down what a fan can expect to pay if they decided today to head to the Windy City and root for Wiltjer, Sabonis and the boys: 

The folks at Priceline and TiqIQ did a breakdown of ticket prices for each of the four regions of the tournament; the prices are based on the average prices found on the "secondary market," things like StubHub and Craig's List.

The Zags are in the Midwest Region and playing at Chicago's United Center, where the current average price for all three games happening Friday and Sunday is $659. The cheapest available is $232. If you just want to go on Friday, that ticket to see Gonzaga vs. Syracuse and Virginia vs. Iowa St. averages $420, and a ticket just for the regional final on Sunday averages $276. 

We fully expect Gonzaga to win on Friday and play on Sunday, so let's (pretend to) buy that all-session average ticket. 

Tickets grand total: $659

I did a quick Expedia search for flights from Spokane to Chicago, and looked for the best deal that gets a fan to the game before Friday's 6:40 pm Pacific tip-off. And I'm going to assume the Zags play on Sunday, meaning the earliest one might fly home to the Inland Northwest would be a Sunday red-eye or early Monday flight. 

The cheapest flights Friday get to Chicago too late to make the game, so if you want to leave Friday morning and still see the game, you need to get up early. There's a 5 am American Airlines flight that gets you to Chicago at 2 pm Friday for $638, and a Delta Airlines flight at 6 am that gets you to Chicago a little after 3pm for $690. Southwest Airlines comes through with a 5:35 am flight out of Spokane arriving in Chicago at 2:30 pm for "only" $558, so we'll take that one. 

Tickets grand total: $558

I used Priceline to search for hotels, planning on checking in on Friday and leaving Chicago on Monday. Obviously a city the size of Chicago has a ton of hotels, and depending on how far you want to travel to the arena, you can find a wide price range. 

Walking to the game is a great option, though, and the Crowne Plaza Metro hotel is just 1.5 miles away and $134 a night. So, we'll stay there Friday until Monday, and it will cost us $402, plus hotel taxes, which in Chicago is an absurd 16.4 percent. 

Hotel grand total: $469

So, in order to go watch Gonzaga play Syracuse on Friday and then (hopefully) take on the UVa/ISU winner on Sunday, flying as cheaply as possible, staying in an average hotel and buying an average-priced ticket, you're looking at a grand total of: 


And you haven't even eaten a single Italian Beef sandwich or Lou Malnati deep-dish pizza, or sipped your first Old Style. 
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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday in Spokane: Hawaii and St. Joe's can't quite pull it off

Posted By on Sun, Mar 20, 2016 at 11:16 PM


The momentum of perhaps the best opening weekend in the history of the NCAA Tournament felt like it was going to continue on into the Spokane Arena on Sunday night. Two made-for-TV underdogs with a lot of grit and hustle — Hawaii and St. Joseph's — came in hoping to maintain the weekend's narrative.

But it wasn't to be. The strong survived on Sunday. 

In the opener, Maryland got out-hustled across the board in the opening minutes. The Terrapins' offense finally got their 10th point of the game on a Diamond Stone dunk...with 9:34 left in the first half. For their part, Hawaii was finding some breaks where they could and shutting down Maryland, including standout guard Melo Trimble.

Hawaii's Michael Thomas' 19 points led the Rainbow Warriors, who were represented incredibly well by a couple thousand rowdy fans, many of whom were waving palm branches, not because it was Palm Sunday (which it was), but because that's what Hawaii fans do. The rest of the Spokane Arena, never shy to embrace an underdog, backed the Rainbow Warriors, too.

Hawaii never got closer than 10 points down the stretch, despite only trailing by one at halftime. The final: 73-60, Maryland.

The nightcap was what most of the place, decked out in the iconic green and gold of Eugene, Oregon, came to see. It also had the makings of one more upset to cap off the weekend. St. Joseph's was coming off that bonkers ending against Cincinnati on Friday night and had the speed to compete with the Ducks of Oregon.

And it felt like it was going to happen. DeAndre Bembry, an All-Hair Team, Spokane Division member, had 16 points and a dozen rebounds, keeping the Hawks in position to make a run. And holy shit did they make a run. St. Joe's was up by seven points with 5:33 to play. It looked like Spokane was going to be the first gravesite of a one-seed.

As you already know, it didn't happen. St. Joe's had a couple awful, awful possessions and Oregon was able to hold on.

But damn, it was some good basketball here in Spokane this weekend.
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Saturday, March 19, 2016

What Gonzaga fans need to know about Utah

Posted By on Sat, Mar 19, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Utah is led by center Jakob Poeltl, right, the Pac-12 Player of the Year - ROB GRAY, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH SPORTS INFORMATION
  • Rob Gray, University of Utah Sports Information
  • Utah is led by center Jakob Poeltl, right, the Pac-12 Player of the Year

You could say my household has divided loyalties when it comes to Saturday's Gonzaga men's basketball game against the University of Utah in a battle to head to the Sweet 16. 

The lady of the house is a Gonzaga professor, whereas, as my alma mater's school song goes, "A Utah man am I." We've both come to appreciate the other's team over the course of the last couple years of watching games together, and while I've often pondered how the teams would match up, I'm not too excited that it has to happen in the tournament. Both teams lost to Duke last year on the Blue Devils' way to the National Championship. So at least we can now share a hatred of Duke, right?

Here's what all you Zag-loving hoops fans need to know about Utah, who beat Fresno State in the first round, going into Saturday night's game in Denver, happening at 5:40 pm Pacific time. 

The basics: The Utes are led by Pac-12 Player of the Year, sophomore center Jakob Poeltl (pronounced like "turtle", despite any discernible "r" anywhere in the 7-foot Austrian's name). But while Poeltl rightfully gets the most attention, given his impending NBA career, Utah is a pretty deep team. Seniors Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor and Dakari Tucker are all capable of bombing threes, and big men Kyle Kuzma and Chris Reyes help Poeltl down low. Point guard Lorenzo Bonam is streaky as a shooter, but he's lightning fast and can create his own shot better than the rest of the team. That doesn't matter much, because Utah is really good at sharing the basketball. They're also among the Top 10 in the country in field goal percentage as a team.  

Key matchups: This could be a great game when it comes to head-to-head showdowns all over the floor. The best is clearly Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis vs. Poeltl, a matchup of potential lottery picks who both have excellent offensive and defensive skills. Sabonis is the more muscular of the two, while Poeltl has the more-fluid offensive game. Sabonis is better shooting away from the basket, while Poeltl is the better passer. Let's just hope the referees don't saddle either big man with foul trouble so we get to see a great showdown. 

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Spokane contributed plenty to the craziest day in NCAA Tournament history

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 10:26 PM


OK. Deep breaths. This is only the second day of this glorious NCAA Tournament, but it's already becoming one of the most memorable in the annals of hoops history. And, wouldn't you know it, Spokane was a major part of it.

As I told you earlier today, Hawaii stunned California in the opener at the Spokane Arena — a 13 seed beating a 4 seed — and on most opening week Fridays, that would be a national headline. But just a half hour later, Michigan State fell to Middle Tennessee State (15 over 2). Then Stephen F. Austin manhandled West Virginia (14 over 3). And then things would continue to get crazy.

But at the Spokane Arena, Maryland was taking care of South Dakota State, leading by 18 points in the second half thanks to 27 points from senior forward Jake Layman. It seemed like a break from the madness. But then SDSU came crawling, and the sprinting, back into the game. The Jackrabbits got the game within two points with a minute left. Because of a weird series of fouls and missed free throws, SDSU actually had the ball with 12 seconds left down by just three.

But...they turned it over on the last possession – leading to a breakaway dunk by former Duke, current Maryland guard Rasheed Sulaimon to jack the Rabbits' chance at an upset. 79-74, Maryland.

Next up came Oregon and their day-glo fans, which you've probably seen all over town. On a day during which it felt like anything could happen, it never felt like Holy Cross could do much harm to Oregon. That’s not to discredit Holy Cross, a school that entered its conference tournament as the nine seed and proceeded to run the table. Then, they squeezed out a win over Southern in the first four just to get to Spokane.

The Ducks' Chris Boucher delivered three alley-oop dunks within the span of about four minutes and that kind of knocked the Crusaders out of things. Oregon is tough and big and fast. We learned that today. Oregon dismantled those kids from Holy Cross and it didn't look like the Ducks were ever really sweating it. 91-52, Oregon.

The nightcap, though, was a different story. It was one of the most evenly matched games of the tournament thus far. In a word, it was a slugfest, man. It was Rocky II. I could lay out the back-and-forth nature of the contest, but you should just know that St. Joseph's and Cincinnati played a gem.

In the end, after much back-and-forth, it came down to this:
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Spokane was home to the biggest upset in the NCAA tournament...for a few minutes

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 2:39 PM


Here at the Spokane Arena, big basketball news was being made. The biggest news, arguably, of the entire tournament, you could say. Hawaii had just beaten Cal — and handily, at that — making for a 13-seed over a 4 upset, which hadn't happened since 2013. That news, however, was quickly overshadowed.

By the middle of the second half of Hawaii's 77-66 win, anyone not decked out in blue and gold Cal apparel was rooting, and rooting vigorously, for Hawaii, which makes sense, given that Spokane is basically the Hawaii of the lower 48. The place was rocking, led by a diehard group of actual Hawaiians who made the pan-Pacific flight to the mainland for the game. One guy told me he'd been in Anaheim for the Rainbow Warriors' win in the Big West tournament — flew back to the islands and then came to Spokane yesterday.

Even folks at the arena just to take in a game probably thought they'd just seen what would be the most talked-about game of the day. Well, that changed a half-hour later when Middle Tennessee State did the unthinkable and knocked off Michigan State — the team about 22 percent of the people who filled out an ESPN bracket picked to win it all. Many are calling this the biggest NCAA tournament upset EVER.

Spokane can nevertheless pride itself as Upset City. The last time men's games were held here, Harvard beat Cincinnati and North Dakota State knocked off Oklahoma. There could be more upsets to come, too.

Hawaii will play the winner of the Maryland vs. South Dakota State game. Following that contest, all those green and yellow folks who traveled up from Oregon will begin making their way into the arena.
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PHOTOS: On campus, Gonzaga students went wild as the Zags beat Seton Hall

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 10:01 AM

The 11-seeded Gonzaga men's hoops team took down 6-seed Seton Hall Thursday night in Denver, advancing to the second round for a matchup against the No. 3 seed Utah. The Zags, while sloppy at times, dominated for most of the night, particularly in a stretch to close out the first half that saw Seton Hall miss 15 shots in a row, giving Gonzaga a halftime cushion they never gave up. As usual, Domantas Sabonis dominated inside, dropping 21 points and collecting 16 rebounds. This is the eight straight year Gonzaga has moved on to the second round of March Madness. Saturday's game will tip off at 5:40 pm Pacific, or a half-hour after the Iowa State/Arkansas-Little Rock game ends. 

The women's team won its Women's NIT opening round Thursday night as well, taking down UC-Riverside. They'll play another home game on Monday against either Utah or Montana St. 

Inlander intern Meg Maclean joined her fellow Gonzaga students for a watch party for the men's game at the school's Hemmingson Center. Here's what she saw during Thursday night's ballgame: 

Once it hit 8 pm on the third floor of Gonzaga's Hemmingson Center, you could feel the energy from two floors below. The viewing party for the Zags' NCAA tournament appearance was held in the Hemmingson Ballroom last night, and even though the Zags went head to head against Seton Hall 1,000 miles away in Denver, hundreds of Zag fans congregated on campus to support the men's team.
  • Meg Maclean
As the game raged on the big screens, screaming fans were offered pizza and beverages as they cheered their hearts out. The Zag spirit was encouraged between time-outs with loud music and dancing, directed by members of the Kennel Club and — of course — Spike the Bulldog.
  • Meg Maclean
  • Meg Maclean

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Basketball Day! Zags (men and women), NCAAs in Spokane, EWU wins, upsets on the horizon!

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 1:53 PM

The Spokane Arena is looking good for tomorrow's NCAA tourney games.
  • The Spokane Arena is looking good for tomorrow's NCAA tourney games.

Merry St. Basketball Day, people of the Inland Northwest, and what a fine day it is. There are two huge Zags games coming this evening. There are NCAA title contenders in our fair city. And, also, people are wearing too much green and drinking much earlier in the day and with much more fervor than pretty much any other day on the calendar.

It's truly a joyous occasion.

There are already a number of NCAA tournament games in the books, and there are many more contests coming down the pike. You probably already know that because you've been streaming games to your computer, but watching with a very determined look on your face whenever the boss walks by.

The biggest upset we're obviously waiting for is tonight's 6:57 pm (or later) tip off between Gonzaga (the 11 seed) and Seton Hall (a 6 seed, and the winner of the Big East Tournament). You've probably read that Seton Hall's guards are going to dominate the day, but remember — although GU's guards have tossed away a couple wins earlier this season, they play some pretty lockdown defense. Also, Seton Hall, like most of the country, doesn't have an answer for Domantas Sabonis or, for that matter, Kyle Wiltjer. That game is televised on TruTV, which is a channel you only go looking for during March Madness.

Closer to home and — unfortunately — at pretty much the same time as the Zag men, the Gonzaga women's team has a home game in the NIT against UC Riverside. That game is tipping off at 6 pm and there are still tickets available.

Although they didn't make it to the NCAA tourney as they did last year, the Eastern Washington men's team secured their first postseason win in the program's NCAA history last night by knocking off the favored Pepperdine Waves out in Cheney 79-77 in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament. They'll play on Monday night against Nevada down in Reno.

Finally, I just got back from the Spokane Arena, which is all spruced up to host NCAA tournament games tomorrow and Sunday. Here's a complete rundown of all the teams here. But if you want to take a look for yourself, you can get into the arena to watch practices until 7 pm tonight, and perhaps give a friendly hello to all the out of towners here for the tournament.

May St. Basketball forever bless you.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

There's post-season basketball at EWU tonight

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 3:23 PM


Lost in the shuffle of one of the craziest basketball weeks of the year was the news that Eastern Washington University had accepted an offer to play in the College Basketball Invitational, a tournament for teams that were not offered NCAA or NIT bids.

Even more interesting is the fact that EWU got a home game in Cheney to start the tournament. They'll face off against Pepperdine, one of Gonzaga's WCC foes, tonight at 6:05 pm. Tickets are just $10 for any seat in the house and $5 for ages three to 12.

And here's something weird — the only prior meeting between EWU and Pepperdine was exactly 70 years ago today. Back then, Eastern's mascot was the Savage (ugggh) and they met the Waves in the semifinals of the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball tournament in Kansas City.

They'll have a tough opponent in Pepperdine, a squad that made it to the semifinals of the WCC Tournament before falling to eventual runner up St. Mary's. The Waves went 18-13 this year for one of their best seasons in the last decade.
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Monday, March 14, 2016

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Zags dance in Denver, Ducks call and EWU, Idaho tourney-bound, too

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2016 at 12:09 PM

The Oregon Ducks are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA West Region, and coming to Spokane to play. - OREGON ATHLETICS
  • Oregon athletics
  • The Oregon Ducks are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA West Region, and coming to Spokane to play.

After the incredibly long, often ridiculous CBS show unveiling the NCAA tourney field, we know what's happening with March Madness as it descends on the Spokane Arena, we know where Gonzaga is playing, and we still don't know exactly what the CBI is. Let's break it down: 


The Spokane Arena is hosting eight teams the opening weekend of March Madness, with the games happening this Friday and Sunday. The headliner is the Oregon Ducks squad that is the No. 1 seed in the West Regional. They'll be taking on the winner of a Holy Cross/Southern University play-in game. Here's the schedule of what's coming up in Spokane; tickets will be available online and on the street if you're lucky, but you can always watch on TV: 

Friday, March 18
Session 1

(4 seed) Cal Bears vs. (13) Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors, 11 am
(5) Maryland Terrapins vs. (12) South Dakota State Jackrabbits, 1:30 pm
Session 2
(1) Oregon Ducks vs. (16) Holy Cross/Southern, 4:30 pm
(8) St. Joseph Hawks vs. Cincinnati Bearcats 

The winners of Session 1 and Session 2 will face each other Sunday at a time to be determined. Watch for this week's Inlander for a breakdown on each team. 


Gonzaga won the WCC tournament what seems like months ago, and they were the last team to pop up in the too-long CBS selection show after two hours of listening to Charles Barkley fumble through opinions about college hoops that he seems to not actually watch all season. 

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