Saturday links: Zags-Butler, Sonics, Armstrong, M’s & more

It’s not Duke-North Carolina, it’s not Washington-Washington State. For me, it’s more compelling than that.

It’s No. 8 Gonzaga (17-1) vs. No. 13 Butler (15-2), two men’s basketball programs that symbolize what’s good about college hoops.

Saturday’s showdown in Indianapolis (ESPN, 6 p.m.) features a couple teams that aren’t afraid to take on the big boys, and they’re not afraid to do it on the road.

Butler’s been to a couple Final Fours, and this could be the year Gonzaga gets there, partly because of Kelly Olynyk, a mobile 7-footer who is the most improved player in college basketball. Olynyk’s already had 33- and 31-point games, and has become the Zags’ best offensive force since Adam Morrison. Figuring he wouldn’t get much playing time a year ago with Robert Sacre and Elias Harris up front, Olynyk decided to redshirst last season.

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Here’s an open letter from a Sacramento basketball fan to SuperSonics’ fans, which followed a letter from the producers of Sonicsgate to Sacramento Kings’ fans.

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Everybody has an opinion about Lance Armstrong.

Michael Rosenberg of SI.com writes: Without doping, Armstrong would be a nobody.

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, author or two books about Armstrong, says the cyclist has apologized to her. In her most recent column about Armstrong, published Dec. 15, Jenkins says she’s not angry at the man who duped the cycling world.

Rick Reilly of ESPN.com is having a hard time forgiving Armstrong. He wrote:

It’s partially my fault. I let myself admire him. Let myself admire what he’d done with his life, admire the way he’d not only beaten his own cancer but was trying to help others beat it. When my sister was diagnosed, she read his book and got inspired. And I felt some pride in that. I let it get personal. And now I know he was living a lie and I was helping him live it.

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The Mariners trade catcher John Jaso and wind up with former prospect Mike Morse from the Washington Nationals in a three-team trade that also involved Oakland. You’ve got to like Morse’s power (he hit 31 homers in 2011 and 18 during an injury-plagued 2012), and perhaps this means the M’s will rush 2012 first-round pick Mike Zunino to the majors to share catching duties with Jesus Montero. I liked Jaso. He was a lefty who hit lefties and was a lot better behind the plate than advertised. But you get the feeling that the M’s are going to give Zunino every opportunity to make the big club.
Could Zunino turn out to be the Mariners’ version of Buster Posey?
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David Letterman on Manti Te’o and the Notre Dame linebacker’s imaginary girl friend: “Some people are better off with imaginary girl friends.”
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The Mariners also made a move in the broadcast booth this week, hiring 29-year-old Aaron Goldsmith to be Rick Rizzs’ sidekick. Nothing against Goldsmith, who called Pawtucket Red Sox games a year ago, but I was hoping long-time Tacoma Rainiers announcer Mike Curto would have gotten the job. But it’s not surprising that the M’s went with a young guy, somebody who can learn the ropes and be ready to step in when Rizzs retires.
Curto welcomes Goldsmith to the Pacific Northwest in his informative and fun blog — Booth, Justice and the American Pastime.
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I’m recently retired, but still writing a weekly Thursday column for The Sun and doing some other stories. A Q&A with Willie Bloomquist of the Arizona Diamondbacks, recently named to Team USA that will play in the World Baseball Classic, will publish on Sunday, Jan. 27.
In case you missed them, my columns this month have been about Mike Crotty, the former Notre Dame football player now living in Bremerton and coaching at O’Dea; Don Thorsen, the former Central Kitsap basketball star who was inducted into the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame, and Mike Krug, WestSound FC soccer coach who was a finalist for US Youth Soccer’s Competitive Coach of the Year Award.

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