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A Grip on Sports: The basketball weekend is off to a great start, highlighted by a monster dunk in Cheney

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A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s not hard to understand why Gonzaga and Arizona are playing tonight. The two best West Coast (sort of) schools meeting in Tucson is a big deal in college basketball circles. But there was also a big deal out in Cheney last night even if the schools aren’t usually on the radar nationally.

•••••••

• No, Eastern Washington and Multnomah facing off in a nonconference game isn’t usually going to draw the attention of SportsCenter. But it did last night thanks to one play by Spokane’s own, Tanner Groves.

The 6-foot-9 post from Shadle Park High threw down a follow dunk in transition that raised the roof later that evening on the self-proclaimed World-Wide Leader.

As it should have.

Groves dunk, and ensuing old school celebration, had already gone viral on Twitter – the video has been viewed almost 700,000 times. So it’s no surprise the late SportsCenter on ESPN, with Seattle native Kenny Mayne in the anchor chair, picked it as No. 1 in its nightly Top Ten plays list.

It was that good.

So good, in fact, it overpowered everything else from the game, including Eastern’s 146-89 win? Nationally, an afterthought. Mason Peatling’s Big Sky record 54 points – in 24 minutes? Same thing. Former Lewis and Clark High guard Justin Martin’s 34 points and Multnomah’s 21 made 3-pointers? Not even that.

This one was about Groves’ high-flying, vicious dunk.

• Tonight’s game in Tucson may feature a few dunks itself, though probably nothing as emphatic as Groves’.

Maybe though, and it may be to Gonzaga’s favor. After all, the Zags’ inside game is where they should have an edge against the home team.

The Wildcats’ strength?

Arizona features one of the nation’s most electric freshmen guards, one-and-done point Nico Mannion.

The Zags recruited Mannion, from Phoenix, though the 6-3 guard’s final decision reportedly came down to Arizona and Marquette. He has already established himself as one of the top point guards on the West Coast (sort of) in just 11 games.

One caveat, however. In Arizona’s two most-recent games against Power 6 competition (a win over Wake Forest and a loss at Baylor), Mannion was just a combined 6-of-25 shooting and was 1-of-8 beyond the arc.

• If you are wondering why I have already twice written “West Coast (sort of),” it’s simple. I like to nit-pick.

I know Arizona plays in the Pac-12 Conference, which is considered a West Coast conference (as opposed to Gonzaga’s West Coast Conference, with its second capital C). But is Arizona really a West Coast school?

Consider this. Tucson is 407 driving miles from San Diego, basically the closest U.S. city on the Pacific Ocean. That’s a haul. In fact, it’s farther from Tucson to San Diego than it is from Youngstown, Ohio, to the Atlantic Ocean. And no one in their right mind would ever consider Ohio an East Coast state.

If you are wondering, it is 365 air miles from Tucson to San Diego, which puts it roughly the same distance from the ocean as St. Regis, Montana. I don’t think anyone in St. Regis believes they live on the West Coast.

•••

WSU: The Cougars are getting ready for their bowl game in Phoenix, named after a not-so-nutritious snack food. But their practices are anything but junk. In fact, Mike Leach is using the time to see what returning quarterbacks Gunner Cruz and Cammon Cooper can do. Theo Lawson has more in this story. … Theo, along with prep writer Dave Nichols, spoke with Larry Weir yesterday for the Press Box pod. … Former WSU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has a new job. Theo tells us he has signed on at Virginia Tech. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington will be ready for the Las Vegas Bowl. … Oregon will have its offensive coordinator in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks won’t have one of their running backs, though. … Utah may be without another defensive back as well in the Alamo Bowl. … USC hopes to pack in the recruits late. … Former EWU assistant coach Zac Hill looks to be headed to Arizona State as offensive coordinator. … In basketball news, Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle is shooting well from distance. … Colorado survived at Colorado State. … USC is officially under investigation by the NCAA. … UCLA heads to Notre Dame in what’s always been a great rivalry. … Arizona State faces Georgia and the Bulldogs’ star, Anthony Edwards.

Gonzaga: Yes, there is a game tonight in Tucson. And yes, Jim Meehan has a preview as well as a look at the key matchup between Mannion and Ryan Woolridge. But there is also a game in the Kennel, with the women hosting Texas Southern. Jim Allen has that preview. … By the way, tonight’s game in Tucson might decide where a Georgetown transfer decides to play next year. … Around the WCC, BYU has a tough matchup with Utah State.

EWU: Ryan Collingwood was at Reese Court yesterday to witness Eastern’s offensive fireworks. They are all contained in this story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, there are two Big Sky schools left in the FCS semifinals. Weber State, which lost earlier this season in Missoula, turned the tables in Ogden, winning 17-10 over Montana. The Wildcats will travel to James Madison in one semifinal. … Montana State controlled Austin Peay’s potent offense and won 24-10 in Bozeman. The Bobcats will more than likely be traveling to North Dakota State next weekend.

Preps: Friday nights are always busy in the prep ranks and last night was no exception. We have roundups from GSL boys and GSL girls as well as from the area girls and boys games. … Mt. Spokane’s Tia Allen was named the state’s top volleyball player in the 3A ranks. Dave has that story.

Chiefs: Spokane is headed on the road for a pre-Christmas four-game trip. Dan Thompson has a preview of the Chiefs’ travels, coming, as they do, on the heels of a five-game winning streak.

Seahawks: The margin of error is just about gone. … And guess what? Jadeveon Clowney and Mychal Kendricks won’t play against Carolina.

Mariners: Is a Kyle Seager trade possible?

•••       

• By the way, full disclosure here, I know Tanner Groves and his family well. He played in our Eastern Washington Elite summer program as did his younger brother Jake, a freshman at EWU. But my relationship with the Groves family dates back many years before that. Until later …



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Rob Gorodetsky, popular sports gambler, charged with defrauding investor of nearly $10 million

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Federal prosecutors allege that illegal activity was behind the luxurious lifestyle of high-stakes gambler Rob Gorodetsky. Charges filed to the U.S. District Court in Chicago on Tuesday, state that Gorodetsky is being accused of defrauding an investor of almost $10 million.

The 27-year-old got his fame through putting large bets on sports games– “$350,000 on NFL Sundays, $100,000 on MLB games and tens of thousands of dollars on the NBA, WNBA, tennis, soccer and high school sports,” according to a 2017 profile in USA Today — while palling around and gambling with celebrities like Drake, Scott Disick and Dan Bilzerian. He’d also flaunt his wealth on Instagram and often wear a hat with a GAMBLR logo on it.

But federal documents say that this lifestyle was all thanks to a scheme he hatched up where he defrauded an unnamed investor from 2014 to 2018 for $9.6 million. While a lot of the money was used for his exorbitant gambling habits, approximately $2 million was used for cars, jewelry, travel and living and entertainment expenses. The scam itself is not made clear.

Gorodetsky is not only being charged with wire fraud, but also for filing a false tax return. He allegedly filed a return in 2017 that falsely claimed his total income for the year was $10,520. For reference, that was the same year as the USA Today profile that reported he had “wagered well over $1 million on a range of sporting events and tens of thousands of dollars more on blackjack and roulette.”

His arraignment and plea hearing have been set for Feb. 5, and he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.





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A Rare Good First Week at a Grand Slam for the American Men

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Sandgren, who unlike Paul stayed under the radar by playing college tennis, said Paul deserved patience as he developed. “When you’re young you sometimes don’t make the most optimal decisions; everybody’s guilty of that to some degree,” Sandgren said. “The more disciplined you can be, your odds are better.”

Sandgren has been more disciplined, but has streaky results. For a player of his low profile, never reaching the Top 40 in the ATP rankings, Sandgren has amassed a remarkable collection of big wins at Grand Slam events, including a run to the quarterfinals here in 2018. His win over Berrettini was his fourth victory against a top-10 opponent at a Grand Slam in six matches, a winning percentage few others could touch. Calling himself a “realist with a pessimistic bent,” however, Sandgren sought ways to play down his win over Berrettini.

“I’m thinking, ‘Well, it’s early in the year, and I don’t think he’d played an event,’” Sandgren said. “So that’s in the back of my head, that he’s not match tough. I’m searching for my own asterisks so I can pin myself down a little.”

Sandgren was particularly proud of his physicality against Berrettini, never flagging in the five-set match. After a toe injury last fall, Sandgren spent his off-season in the gym, improving his stamina and adding the muscle he said he needed to justify being the only man other than Rafael Nadal to wear sleeveless shirts here.

“Well, I’ve been working out — I think I can pull this off,” Sandgren said.

Reinventing his image among tennis fans may prove even harder work. During his 2018 run here, Sandgren drew scrutiny and criticism for his social media posts, in which he engaged with several far-right political figures and theories. After he was eliminated, he opened his news conference with a statement railing against the news media for “demonizing” him.

Sandgren said he now followed politics “less passionately.”

“I’m relatively good at one thing, which is playing tennis,” Sandgren said. “I wouldn’t want another interest I have, or a hobby — and following politics is a hobby — to bring that side of me down.”



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Las Vegas Doubles Down on Sports, Live and Broadcast

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At the Park MGM, the recently updated Moneyline Sports Bar & Book looks more like a neighborhood sports bar — albeit with bigger and more numerous screens — with large booths where groups can gather and a “tailgate menu” offering cheeseburgers and nachos. The teller area, where the betting takes place, is in the entry foyer.

Up the street, The Linq Hotel + Experience has updated its sports book to include “Fan Caves,” living room-style areas available for rent with 98-inch televisions guests can control, video games and nightclub-style bottle service. The resort is also building a studio for the sports network ESPN overlooking the Strip, to be completed next spring. (Its sibling resort, Caesars Palace, now has a Bleacher Report Studio producing content for the popular sports app and steaming service.)

“We wanted to create an actual living room experience where fans can be social together,” said Chris Holdren, the chief marketing officer for Caesars Entertainment, which runs The Linq, Caesars Palace and several other resorts. “In traditional sports books, you were lined up and if you wanted to high-five after your team scored, it meant going down the aisle.”

Making casinos more game-day friendly may expand their appeal. Research by the American Gaming Association found that sports bettors are generally younger, more affluent, more ethnically diverse and better educated than the general population of the United States.

In terms of live sports, Las Vegas has the W.N.B.A. Aces, pro soccer’s Lights, and Triple-A baseball’s Aviators, as well as pro hockey. Major League Baseball exhibition games have been held in Las Vegas nearly every year since 1991 and will take place again in February and March 2020 in the newly constructed Las Vegas Ballpark. Still, only 4 percent of visitors attended a sporting event in 2018, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Operators here expect that to change given the popularity of football, America’s favorite spectator sport, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. The Raiders organization said that it has already sold 99 percent of the licenses to buy season tickets. Leading up to the team’s debut, Las Vegas will hold the NFL Draft, April 23 to 25.



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