Bracket gazing: All roads lead to Pullman

ALL ROADS, AS Bill Moos said a couple of weeks ago, lead to Pullman. And that refrain has been illustrated nicely in this opening week of March Madness. Indeed, no matter where you turn, it seems there's a Cougar connection of some kind lurking in the brackets.

Take Northern Iowa's nailbiting victory over UNLV on Thursday. The winning shot -- a 30 footer with some serious hang time -- was launched by senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh. He was born and raised in Pullman. His mom, Cindy Frederick, was WSU's volleyball coach for 15 seasons before leaving for Iowa in 2004.

Another fantastic NCAA tourney finish on Thursday was found in Old Dominion's one-point upset of Notre Dame. Old Dominion head coach Blaine Taylor was, as CF.C broke last year, a late and serious entry in the search for a successor to Tony Bennett at WSU. Prior to coaching Old Dominion, Taylor was head man at Montana and an assistant at Stanford. He was a natural contender for the WSU job because he's a proven winner, knows the West and, like Bennett, puts big emphasis on defense.

In yet another great first-round NCAA contest on Thursday -- between Montana and New Mexico -- that scrappy little guard for the Griz looked somehow familiar. Sure enough, it was Shawn Stockton of Spokane -- the guy who made so many sweet passes to DeAngelo Casto and Jared Karstetter in Ferris High's back-to-back 4A state championships of 2007 and 2008.

Former WSU star guard Bennie Seltzer is in his second season as an assistant at Indiana, but the Marquette team that lost a tight one Thursday to the Huskies is loaded with juniors and seniors that had the benefit of Seltzer's tutelage when he was an assistant at the Milwaukee school. Seltzer, who is WSU's all-time assists leader, is considered one of the outstanding player development coaches in the land. He clearly has his work cut out in Bloomington before the Hossiers get back to the Big Dance: Indiana was 10-21 this season.

On the women's side of March Madness, former WSU head coach Sherri Murrell has guided Portland State to the tourney for the first time ever. Murrell is in her third season with the Vikings. The Seattle Times profiled her renaissance in Friday's editions. CLICK HERE for that story.

NOTABLE:
  • Incoming WSU basketball player Patrick Simon of Ephrata is playing today in the high school all-star extravaganza in Mountlake Terrace that's sponsored by the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association. The 6-9 sharpshooter will lead the state's finest players from Class 2A against a Class 1A club that features Chelan's Joe Harris, who will be playing for Tony Bennett at Virginia next season. Simon scored a state playoff record 48 points in a semi-final game a week ago.

  • The National Association of Basketball Coaches is out with its all-district teams and Washington State's Klay Thompson is among the five players voted all-Pac-10 first team. The WSU sophomore was joined by Stanford's Landry Fields, Washington's Quincy Pondexter, Cal's Jerome Randle and Arizona's Nic Wise. The second-team is made up of Ty Abbott (ASU), Patrick Christopher (Cal), Dwight Lewis (USC) Isaiah Thomas (UW) and Derrick Williams (Arizona).

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