Monthly Archives: March 2012

Former fastpitch great Bob Beller dies

Bob Beller died on Wednesday in Shelton. He was 68.

From the The Olympian: Beller, Robert W., 68, Shelton, died Wednesday, March 28, 2012, at Providence St. Peter Hospital, Olympia. McComb Funeral Home, Shelton, 360-426-4803.

Bob Beller was one of the greatest fastpitch players to come out of Bremerton. I never got the pleasure to sit down and talk with Beller, but Terry Mosher recently did.
Mosher wrote a two-part feature on Beller late last year for The Sports Paper Weekly. In case you missed it:

Peabody tracks local college baseball players

Peabody: Life, Friends, Baseball

It’s a reader blog on our site, written by North ender Terry Benish.

He recently put together a list of locals athletes playing college baseball.

Check it out.

Is he missing anybody?

One reader already pointed that that Tanner Romo, a South Kitsap grad, is at Everett CC.

Peabody’s got a good baseball mind and he’s got a lot of opinions, particularly about the Mariners. Check out his blog.

Meanwhile, here’s an update on some of the college baseball players that he listed. This was in Wednesday’s paper and online in our Kitsap Briefs package:

Collegians

BASEBALL: Western Oregon first baseman Bo Folkinga (sr., Twin Falls, Idaho, Olympic College) was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Week. Folkinga had nine hits in 15 at bats and drove in 11 runs as the Wolves won three of four games with Central Washington. Among Folkinga’s hits were four doubles and two home runs. Folkinga now leads the GNAC in doubles (11) and RBI (31). … Andy Smith (jr., North Kitsap/Washington/Bellevue CC) is hitting .313 for Liberty (23-4) with three home runs, 17 RBI and six stolen bases. … Outfielder Caleb Brown (sr., Central Kitsap) is hitting .286 with two homers and six RBI for Washington (15-7). He’s started eight games and played in 16. … Designated hitter/catcher Nick Benish (fr., North Kitsap) is hitting .334 for George Fox (12-12) with two homers and seven RBI. … Pacific Lutheran catcher Curtis Wildung (fr., North Kitsap) is hitting .286 with a home run and seven RBI. … Outfielder Daniel Jewett (so., North Kitsap) is hitting .323 for NCAA DII Truman State (3-17) of Missouri. … Outfielder Brad Fairweather (jr., South Kitsap/Olympic College) is hitting .300 for Hawaii-Hilo (6-23, 3-17 PacWest). … Casey Bohlman (jr., Central Kitsap/Bellevue CC) is 2-0 with two saves and a 4.97 ERA for Hawaii-Hilo. The left-hander has appeared in seven games and pitched 25.1 innings. …. Brett Bielec (sr., North Mason/Tacoma CC) is hitting .378 with eight RBI for Central Washington (9-11, 5-3). Brother Kasey Bielec (fr., North Mason) is hitting .269. Randy Button (jr., North Mason/Big Bend CC) is 1-1 with a 6.85 ERA. He’s pitched 23.2 innings for CWU. Ryan Hastings (sr., Lynden/Olympic College) is 1-1 with a 9.53 ERA for Central. He’s pitched 11.1 innings.

 

Wednesday ramblings

Some questions, some thoughts, some predictions and a Mike Leach quote:

Would the Mariners win the Nippon Professional Baseball League? Probably, but I don’t think they would run away with it. The gap between MLB and Japan baseball is narrowing. If you don’t think so, then you weren’t paying attention to the last two World Baseball Classics, both won by Japan.

I think Seattle second baseman Dustin Ackley hits 20 or more home runs, challenges for the American League batting title this season and will be a a multiple all-star before he retires.

If you believe what you read, former Central Kitsap star Drew Vettleson — an outfielder and one of the Tampa Bay Rays’ top minor-league prospects — will open the season at Class A Bowling Green, Ky. Their nickname? The Hot Rods.

Speaking of the bluegrass state, can you imagine the insanity that’s going on over the upcoming Louisville-Kentucky Final Four semifinal game? If only Murray State, the David in that state, could have joined the Goliaths in New Orleans. How crazy would that have been?

The Washngton Huskies won’t finish in the top half of the Pac-12 next season if Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten both leave for the NBA.

Would Matt Flynn has put up those gaudy numbers in the two games he played if he would have been coming off the bench to quarterback the Seattle Seahawks last season? I think not. Green Bay’s offense was pretty explosive  and Flynn had a few more weapons at his disposal than what Tarvaris Jackson had to work with in Seattle.

If you had the first pick, wouldn’t you pick Kevin Love over Dwight Howard if you were choosing teams? Wouldn’t you pick Kevin Love over any big man in the game? Seems like Love goes for 35 points and 20 rebounds every other night. Big fella from Portland can play.

How many of you who watched the Mariners’ 3 a.m. opener on Wednesday plan to be awake for Game 2 at 2 a.m. on Thursday? Sushi and and Sake Bombers to those of you who do. You really gotta love those guys to tune in at that hour.

Did you know that this year’s  Final Four Louisville team lost by 31 points to Providence, the school Rick Pitino coached to his first Final Four in 1987?

How many of Golfweek’s top-10 in-state golf courses can you name? In order, they are:
1) Chambers Bay, University Place
2) Wine Valley, Walla Walla
3) Palouse Ridge, Pullman
4) Salish Cliffs, Shelton
5) Loomis Trail, Blaine
6) Olympic Course at Gold Mountain, Bremerton
7) Semiahmoo, Blaine
8) Trophy Lake Golf & Casting, Port Orchard
9) Suncadia (Prospector), Roslyn
10) Desert Canyon, Orondo

Tiger Woods is the talk of golf heading into the next week’s Masters, but if I was a betting man, my money would be on Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan. Have a hunch it could be Rickie Fowler’s time, too. Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley and Puyallup’s Ryan Moore also have the games to tame Augusta.

New Washington State football coach Mike Leach, has started spring practices. So far there hasn’t been a lot of news coming out of Pullman. No Pirate sighting that I know of. The candid, likeable Leach seems to be all business on the field. That said, here’s a Leach quote from an interview on KJR that I liked:

“One night we were just trying to get familiar with the town, so my wife and I had gone to a movie. So we drive downtown and I’m just curious where my team and charges are hanging out. There’s nothing downtown. Downtown’s dead. So we drive up College Hill. As we’re going up College Hill, shoot there’s mini-skirts and hot pants everywhere. So I ask her ‘what’s the temperature?’ I go, ‘it’s gotta be pretty warm out there, huh?’ Thirty-seven degrees! Thirty-seven degrees! I don’t what’s in the water and exactly how tough these people are. Certainly they didn’t need jackets to be necessary at 37 degrees.”

 

 

 

 

Quick hits and a prediction

While you’re here, I’ve got 10 things and a prediction for ya:

1) Silverdale’s Erynne Lee, a freshman at UCLA, is ranked No. 3 in Golf Week’s collegiate rankings after six tournaments. Duke’s Lindy Duncan and Sophia Popov of USC are 1-2 in the latest rankings. UCLA is the No. 1 team. Won’t be long before Lee’s cashing checks on the LPGA Tour.

2) Stephen Drew hasn’t  recovered from a nasty broken ankle suffered last July, and that means the Diamondbacks will run Willie Bloomquist out at shortstop when the defending NL West champions open the season at home against the Giants on Friday, April 6. For Bloomquist, the Port Orchard native who took over for Drew last season, it will be his first Opening Day start. Willie hit .266 a year ago, right near his career average.

3) College basketball’s madness returned to normal this year. No Butler. No George Mason. This year’s Final Four is all royalty: Kentucky, Ohio State, Kansas, Louisville. Kentucky’s the obvious favorite. If the Wildcats win the championship game by three points or 11, I’ll hoist one to Mike Gaffke, who is probably running a March Madness pool somewhere. Hell, even if they don’t win by that margin, I’ll hoist one to Mike Gaffke. I’ll forever think of Mike Gaffke this time of year.

4) Bremerton’s Marvin Williams earned his dough on Sunday, playing 44 minutes in Atlanta’s 139-133 four-overtime win against Utah. I thought it might be a career high for the 6-foot-9 forward. I was wrong. He played 51 minutes in an April 8, 2007 game against Philadelphia. Marvin scored 16 points and had nine rebounds last night. His career highs for points? 33 vs. the Sonics in Seattle on Jan. 25, 2008.

5) Olympic College basketball coach Barry Janusch tells me he’s got a line on a 6-foot-11 center from Arizona by way of Philadelphia, and a guard from Tennessee who tried out at UT-Chattanooga might be on his way to Bremerton.  Janusch, who doubles as the athletic director at the junior college, says he’s got some experienced candidates to sort through for the women’s basketball job that is open. He also told me that Seattle Community College is dropping its men’s and women’s basketball programs.

6) Aaron Cunningham’s still in contention to be Cleveland’s starting left fielder or the Indians fourth outfielder, but the South Kitsap grad hasn’t had the best of springs.  Manager Manny Acta has said the job will go to the player who hits and none of the candidates, including Cunningham, have stepped up at the plate. Cunningham, traded to Cleveland by San Diego, was at .210 with one RBI in 10 spring games at last check.

Another SK grad, Jason Hammel, seems to have cemented a spot in Baltimore’s starting rotation. He could wind up as the No. 3 starter for the Orioles. He’s pitched 11.2 innings and has a 3.09 ERA with 12 strikeouts, five walks and 10 hits allowed in four spring starts.

7) Olympic College’s Colin Yoshinaga, the Japanese player whose style of play reminds you a little of Ichiro, can make all of the plays in left field, has a strong arm and a knack for bunting his way on base. The lefty singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning in an 8-7 victory over Wenatchee Valley on Sunday.

8) It’s a wonder some big school hasn’t hired Virginia Commonwealth basketball coach Shaka Smart. I’d hire him in an instant.

9) Warren Hood and the Goods. A really good band from Austin with a pretty good name. Marshall Hood and the Bads. His brother’s old band. Never saw ‘em, but great name.

10) The Seattle Seahawks’ new battle cry: “Flynn Forever.” We’ll see. QB Matt Flynn still has a lot to prove, but signing him for three years with $10 million guaranteed is a relatively low risk deal with potential for some big-time rewards. At the very least, they’ve upgraded the position. If Flynn wins the starting job, and he should, then Tavaris Jackson gives you some pretty good depth at the most vital position on the team.

Prediction: Next Kitsap-area baseball player to get a chance to play professional baseball? Tyler Baumgartner, former Central Kitsap standout and cousin of Drew Vettleson, the switch-pitching star now playing outfield in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Baumgartner had a monster year as a freshman outfielder at Bellevue CC, and is drawing a lot of interest from a lot of big-league teams. Tyler’s already signed with Oregon. If you want to see a sweet swing, you can watch him next Saturday when Bellevue takes on Olympic College at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds & Events Center. Doubleheader starts at 1 p.m.

 

 

M’s in Japan: Thiel columns and blogs

If you follow our Web site or read out paper, you know by now that we’ve contracted with Sportspress Northwest for Art Thiel’s coverage of the Mariners’ trip to Japan.

In case you’ve missed it, here’s the three columns we’ve published to date:

Nintendo-Ball Part I: Mariners bucked system with Japanese ownership

Nintendo-Ball Part II: Last year for Ichiro, Yamauchi?

Boss will be a no-show for Ichiro, M’s at the Tokyo Dome

You can also follow @Art_Thiel on Twitter

Thiel’s also blogging during his trip to Japan. Here you go:

Tokyo Blog: Ryan should have been Japanese
Art Thiel
Saturday, 8:20 AM
TOKYO — Told that in Japanese baseball, the record holder for sacrifice bunts was held in nearly the same reverence as Americans held home run king Hank Aaron, Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan’s eyes grew wide.

“Really? Oh, man, I should have been born Japanese,” said Ryan, throwing his arms in the air. “I’d be so big here.”

Ryan probably would have fit well in Japan, where sacrifice, fundamentals and execution carry more of the baseball day than the power game played in the U.S.

“I know in America, chicks dig the long ball,” he said in the clubhouse before the Mariners took to the Tokyo Dome field for a workout Saturday. “Do they like the short ball here?”

There was no documentary evidence to provide an answer. But checking out the Tokyo  Dome, as well as the observations of those who watched and played the game on both sides of the pond, here’s few differences for newbies:

*What Japanese pitchers lack in power they make up for in mastery of breaking pitches. The best are unafraid to throw breaking pitches on 2-2 and 3-2 counts, where American pitchers mostly rely on fastballs.

*The typical Japanese offense is more conservative, eager to scratch out the first run of the game and defend it. Hence the frequent use of the sac bunt.

*Some sections of the stands are organized for cheers with actual cheerleaders, but elsewhere are sections where fans watch quietly, leading some American players to describe the atmosphere often as cemetery-like.

*Tokyo Dome oddness: Built in 1988 with a fabric roof like Minneapolis’s Metrodome, the capacity is always officially listed at 55,000. But in 1990, a newspaper audited every seat and came up with a little more than 42,000. No one has disputed the calculation, but a sellout is always listed at 55,000.

The bullpens are under the main grandstand, accessed through an unmarked door in a hallway.

A couple of hundred VIP seats on the field down the right field line have no protective netting, so each ticket holder is issued a helmet and glove, and is expected to leave both at the seat after the game.

GAME TIME – Games get underway Sunday (Saturday in Seattle) when the Mariners play an exhibition game against Japan’s Hanshin Tigers at 8:06 p.m. PDT (12:06 p.m. in Tokyo). There is no TV, nor of the Monday game against the Yomiuri Giants, the Yankees of Japan. That game gets underway at 3:06 a.m. Pacific Monday, 7:06 p.m. in Tokyo.

ESPN 710 radio will carry both games. The Oakland A’s will play Yomiuri Sunday evening after the Mariners, Hanshin Monday before the Mariners.

The regular-season games between the Mariners and A’s are Wednesday (3:04 a.m. PDT) and Thursday (2:04 a.m. PDT) and will be televised live on ROOT Sports (also on mlb.tv) and rebroadcast again at 7:30 p.m. PDT.

The two games with the A’s will also be broadcast live on 710 ESPN Seattle radio, then replayed in their entirety immediately after the games finish.

If you tune in a name may be familiar:  Playing first base (not catcher) for Hanshin is Kenji Johjima, who caught 462 games for the Mariners between 2006-2009. Johjima was an average major league hitter but the language barrier and his style of catching troubled Mariners pitchers and he eventually returned to Japan and Hanshin.

CLUBHOUSE INTRUDERS — Ichiro, who hit seven batting practice home runs in a workout Saturday — not unusual by his Seattle BP standards — was asked what is unique about the Japanese style of game.

He said he didn’t think anything was unique, but the baseball environment was different here than in the U.S. He said he could offer a long list, but the only one he mentioned was “media aren’t allowed in the locker room in Japan.”

Food and drink is also forbidden on the field and in the clubhouse proper. So why would the media want entrance anyway?  Not for quotes like that.

Tokyo Blog: Ichiro hitting leadoff — from plane
Art Thiel
Friday, 10:21 AM
TOKYO — Wearing a pork-pie hat and high-water jeans, the hipster at baggage claim looked a little familiar, except he was just about alone.

“Welcome to Japan,” I said. He smiled.

“Let me welcome you to Japan,” he said. I beat Ichiro by an hour Friday, but he had me by 38 years and change regarding trips to his native sod.

The Oakland A’s charter flight, bearing some media personnel, arrived about an hour ahead of the Seattle Mariners charter at Narita International Airport. So a few us from Seattle decided to wait, then jump on the Mariner buses for the drive to the Tokyo hotel.

Ichiro was once again hitting leadoff. Because he is a Japanese national, he had a much shorter customs line to navigate than the foreigners. So he was first through customs and first down the escalator. A few Mariners staffers showed up to start grabbing bags. Ichiro’s baggage cart quickly filled up with suitcases. The fashionista was not about to be caught in his homeland with just a couple of change of clothes.

After passing through bag check he was greeted at the exit by several dozen screaming fans and about 50 or 60 media personnel awaiting his arrival. He whooshed past them and onto the waiting bus before I could ask whether he would recommend a restaurant so we could sample one of his favorite delicacies: Beef tongue. (It’s true that he likes it and false that I would try it, but what else to talk about at baggage carousel 5?)

His hurry was understandable, but fruitless. Friday night rush hour combined with a steady Seattle rain to make the bus trip a two-hour crawl to the Akasaka-district hotel. The 12-hour plane flight seemed almost easy by comparison.

The players will work out the trans-Pacific kinks Saturday at a Tokyo Dome workout, before the Major League Baseball teams play exhibition games Sunday against the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants.

By then, Ichiro will be hitting third. A new custom.

SXSW or spring training? No contest

I’m back from Austin, Texas, where I tuned in, turned on and … wait. No, that was 1976. Willie Nelson wasn’t a household name back then, but I shared a few words with the Texas legend in the back of the bar while listening to music and sipping on a Longhorn Lone Star one night.

“Hey, do you know who that was?” the bartender asked when Willie got up and left the building.

“No, who?”

“Willie Nelson.”

“Who’s he?” I said.

That was a long time ago, when I was trying to put the finishing touches on an undergraduate degree, but it didn’t take long to figure out that music was big in Austin. Among other places, I used to frequent the Armadillo, where a lot of local and big-name acts performed.

The Armadillo’s long gone, replaced by a place called Threadgill’s. It’s one of about akazillion places to find live music at in Austin. I was in the college town —its population has more than tripled since I lived there — last week for the festival they call South by Southwest. I was there six years ago and decided it was time for a return trip. Spent this one in a 21-foot Winnebago with John, Becky and Max Wallingford. We didn’t get a lot of sleep, but we ate a lot of breakfast tacos at $1.25 a pop, drank a little (OK, OK, maybe more than a little) and listened to a lot of music.

There were bands in every nook and cranny. Every club, bar, patio, courtyard, restaurant, street corner, parking lot seemed to have live music. There were places with indoor stages and outdoor stages. There was a spot hosting a Seattle showcase, but I never got to it, although on Monday, two days after the festival was officially over, I heard Seattle’s Stacy Jones (of the Stacy Jones Band)  sitting in with the Little Elmore Reed Blues Band at The Legendary White Swan in East Austin. They played blues the way the blues are supposed to be played. Coulda been the highlight of the trip.

SXSW started out as a place where unknown bands came to impress the record label’s big shots. Those little-known groups are still coming, by the droves. But now even some of the better known bands and musicians are coming to be rediscovered. They say there were more than 2,000 bands in Austin over the four-day period. By my count, I heard 41 of them, give or take a few, and none of them were what you’d consider “name” bands — although the Waco Brothers, Gourds, Lucero, John Doe, the Punch Brothers, and some of the others I saw have sizeable and loyal fan bases. (The bluegrass Punch Brothers are a little over-hyped in my opinion). They don’t compare to Warren Hood and the Goods.

Glossary (think Thin Lizzy, 30 years later), Honey Honey (think Honey Honey, a hot lead singer who fiddles away some sweet bluegrass), William Elliott Whitmore (“It’s OK to have some fun; it’s OK to have a beer,” said this growling, howling story teller from the Midwest) and Kentucky Knife Fight ( hard to describe, but fun to listen to) were some of the others who left a favorable impression.

Still not sure about Lydia Loveless. Liked her one day, then saw her again and came away wondering if she was all that. Liked the name though. Off the top of my head, I’m gonna give the Waterliars another listen, too. St. Louis group was interesting.

If you wanted big-name bands, you could mortgage your home and buy a wristband that got you into shows to see the likes of Bruce Springsteen (who also delivered the keynote address) and the E Street Band, The Roots, or 50 Cent and Eminem, who shared the stage. Mumford & Sons, Norah Jones and the Little Willies (yes, that Norah Jones), Portland-based Blitzen Trapper and Ben Kweller were also in town. You might have bumped into Bill Murray or Matthew McConaughy, who played bongos with The Cult, on the street.

You might have caught an act by Alabama Shakes, the next Adele if you believe what you read.

Or Austin’s own Gary Clark, Jr., the bluesman who is starting to blow up, drawing comparisons to Jimi Hendrix. Clark’s one of the lucky ones, already signed to a contract with Warner Bros Records.

I passed on the SXSW wrist band, and have no regrets. (The only regret is I never did find that Jalepeno Beer that someone was bragging about).

On my flight home, I sat next to a couple of young musicians from Wasilla, Alaska. Their band is called LaVoy. “We’re sort of like the Rolling Stones meets Coldplay,” one of the guys said.

When they found out I was from Bremerton, they brought up MxPx, the local punk band that rocked the city’s name to fame. And they wondered what was up with Tumbledown, the band formed by former MxPx front man Mike Herrera. Tumbledown played at SXSW a couple years ago.

Don’t know if LaVoy will ever make it big, but I’m pulling for them. I’m pretty sure you can find ‘em — and everyone else I mentioned in this post — on YouTube. There’s so much talent out there. A lot of them will never hit it big, but it doesn’t make ‘em any less talented.  I can’t play a lick or carry a note, but I really enjoyed my week in Austin.

Lots of skinny jeans, punk-types, easy-goin Texans and old geezers like myself — it’s a healthy mix and easy to feel right at home.

Next spring when I wonder if I should go to SXSW or spring training, it’ll be no contest. I’ll take live music in a setting like SXSW every time.

I suppose it’s time to get back to this sports writing business.

I hear the Mariners are headed to Japan, the Seahawks are smack dab in the middle of Flynnsanity, The Peyton Manning is in Denver, the Huskies are going back to Madison Square Garden for the NIT, Washington State’s in the CBI finals, Olympic College’s baseball team is off to its best start in years, the Pumas posted some strange tweet about wanting to build a soccer stadium at Pendergast Park and — guess what? —  I’ve still got a shot in the basketball madness pool … providing Syracuse can find a way to win three more games without a guy named Melo.

Hey, it’s great to be back.

What else did I miss while I was gone?

 

 

 

 

 

Todd Linden back in camp with the Giants

The San Francisco Giants used the 41st overall pick in the 2002 draft to select Todd Linden in 2002.

They gave up on him in 2007.

Now, 10 years after he signed that first contract with the Giants, comes word that the Central Kitsap graduate is back in the Giants’ minor league spring training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Strange world we live in.

Linden, 31, signed a minor league contract with the team that once considered him a “can’t miss” prospect, a possible replacement for Barry Bonds.

This would be one of the great comeback stories of all time if Linden can work his way back into a major league uniform.

The odds are against him, but the the switch-hitting outfielder is coming off a monster year … in something called the North American Baseball League. He was the MVP of the Independent League, leading Edmonton to the league title. He hit .355 with 14 home runs, 79 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 88 games.

I wrote this story about Linden in October of 2011. The theme: Would anybody notice what Linden did in the NABL? Would he ever get another shot, a fair shot to get back to the big leagues?

Aftet the Giants let him go, he played with the Florida Marlins, and spent time in the minors with the Oakland A’s, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. He also spent parts of two seasons playing in Japan.

And now he’s back where he started, wearing a Giants’ uniform. It must be a strange, exhilarating time for Linden.

Here’s hoping he gets a fair shot. Here’s hoping that he plays his way back on to a big-league roster. How can you not pull for him?

 

One quality win — just one — and things might be different for the Huskies

Two Pac-12 basketball teams were invited to play in the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday, but the Pac-12 regular-season champion Washington Huskies weren't one of them. It’s the first time in the modern era of NCAA basketball when a champion of a major conference hasn’t made the dance. The last team not to make it? Washington in 1944.

The Huskies (21-10) had played in three straight NCAA tournaments, but the lack of a quality win and season-ending losses to UCLA and then to Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament doomed them.

Washington earned a No. 1 seed in the NIT and will host Texas-Arlington (24-10) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in a first-round game that will be televised by ESPNU. Washington State reached the NIT semifinals a year ago.

Colorado, which won the conference tournament, is a No. 11 seed and will play No. 6 UNLV in Albuquerque, N.M. California will face South Florida in a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio. The winner will be a No. 12 seed and will play No. 5 Temple in Nashville, Tenn.

Gonzaga is back in the tournament for a 13th straight year, but the draw is a tough one. The Zags are a No. 7 seed and will face No. 10 seed West Virginia in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The winner could draw No. 2 seed Ohio State, which faces Loyola (Md.) in the first round. I don’t think there’s much difference between Gonzaga, a No. 7 seed and an at-large invitee, and Washington. If they played 10 times, both might win five. But you’ve got to give the Zags credit because, as always, they played a really tough non-conference schedule and it paid off in another tournament berth.

Washington played at Saint Louis, in New York against Marquette, Duke, home against South Dakota State and at Nevada. The Huskies were 0-5. Win one of those and the Huskies are probaby making plans for their NCAA first-round game. Their biggest non-conference win came at home against UC Santa Barbara (20-10), which is going to join Washington State in the CBI (College Basketball Invitational).

Gonzaga played Notre Dame at home (won), at Illinois (lost), Michigan State at home (lost), Arizona in Seattle (won), Butler at home (won) and at Xavier (lost). That’s 3-3 in their biggest non-conference games.

As I mentioned, Washington State (15-16) is one of 16 teams to participate in the College Basketball Invitational, and will travel to San Francisco, to take on the University of San Francisco (20-13), Tuesday. Tip is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on HDNet. Let’s see, there’s 68 teams in the NCAA, 32 more in the NIT. That means the 100 teams were picked ahead of Washington State and the 15 other giants who will make up the CBI.

Cavs’ young star Kyrie Irving has Port Orchard connections

Kyrie Irving, 19, one of the rising young stars in the NBA, grew up in New Jersey, but he used to spend his summers in Port Orchard with his mother’s grandparents.

The news was reported in a story on Irving, a rookie with the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the most recent Sports Illustrated magazine.

Kyrie’s mother, Elizabeth, died of a blood infection when he was four, leaving Drederick (Kyrie’s father) to raise him and his older sister, Asia. Dred, as he’s known, grew up playing basketball at the Mitchel Houses in the Bronx, was MVP at Rucker Park and the second-leading scorer in school history at Boston University. He played professionally in Australia, where Kyrie was born, and during pro-am games he parked the stroller at the end of the bench. If Kyrie was fussy, Dred called timeout and fed him a bottle. “He watched everything,” Dred says. The family settled in West Orange, N.J., where Dred ran Kyrie through Mikan drills in the backyard and showed him how to spin layups off the cracked backboard. On weekends Dred took him to the Mitchel Houses for a taste of the blacktop.

A senior bond analyst at Thomson Reuters, Dred insisted on a broad education and sent Kyrie every summer to Elizabeth’s parents in Port Orchard, Wash., where the boy paddled canoes and picked blackberries. …

Manning to Seahawks? Why not?

If Peyton Manning’s healthy, why not throw a ferryload of money at the best quarterback not named Tom Brady still playing in the NFL?

The Seahawks might not be the favorites to sign Manning, but if you believe what you read, they’re among the teams who’re going to make a serious  run at him. They’ve got the cap room, and the need. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

Put yourself in Manning’s shoes. Seattle’s an up-and-coming team with an energetic coach. The defense is on the verge of reaching elite status, they’ve got an elite running back, a wealthy owner, great facilities and perhaps the best fan base in the league. What’ s there not to like? Ah, the wide receivers, might be a little suspect, but what if Seattle could bring in Manning’s old sidekick, Reggie Wayne, as SI.com’s Peter King has suggested.

This report from ESPN New York says the Hawks “will come out checkbook blazing,” to sign No. 18.

SI.com breaks down the Manning sweepstakes like this.

What do you think? Should the Hawks pursue Manning?

Does he still have some game left in that right arm? Based on the fact that he did have four neck surgeries over the last year, do you think he’s worth the risk?

Or would you rather see the Seahawks make a play for Matt Flynn, the Packers’ backup QB who could be the next big thing? Or do you try to move up in the draft to take a shot at Baylor’s Robert Griffin?

Or perhaps you’re OK with Tarvaris Jackson. Can Jackson get the Seahawks to the Super Bowl?