Look for Gonzaga on the map and it takes someone in the know to find the Catholic school in the corner of the Pacific Northwest. Look for the Zags on the basketball map at this time of the year and they're usually a lot easier to find.
John Stockton once played for the school, before he went on to a Hall of Fame career making sure the Mailman was always in position to deliver. Stockton's son, David, plays there now, though he's not quite the assist machine his father once was.
Gonzaga has gone to the last 14 NCAA tournaments, once advancing to within one win of the Final Four. They're usually the kind of team other coaches hate to face early because they always seem so fundamentally sound.
Now they're No. 2 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll this week, the school's highest ranking ever. And as selection time gets near and the No. 1 seeds are picked, the question becomes this:
Why not Gonzaga?
Why not, indeed. If there's ever a season a mid-major can become a No. 1 seed and get on the inside track to the Final Four, it's this one.
The Zags have been tournament darlings before, sure. But this year they're a legitimate top-five pick on anyone's ballot - and a No. 1 pick by one voter in the AP weekly poll.
Parity reigns across the nation and, until Indiana solidified things at the top, being No. 1 was a crown to be worn uneasily. But while the Bulldogs may play in a small conference, they played a big-school schedule to make sure they're ready in March.
They're done with the label of being the little school that can. Their coach points to the schedule and says they can't even be considered a mid-major anymore.
They've been playing - and beating - the big boys for so long they're simply a very good college basketball team. Period.
"Our body of work speaks for itself," guard Mike Hart said Monday. "Our two losses (Illinois and at Butler) were quality losses. We've had a great group of games and a schedule that has been tough."
That Gonzaga is a heartbeat away from the top spot in American basketball is largely due to a pair of Canadians who couldn't be more different.
Kevin Pangos is the guard who grew up idolizing Steve Nash and can't stand to not be in the gym. Kelly Olynyk is the late-blooming 7-footer with the flowing locks who looks like he would be comfortable joining Bill Walton at a Grateful Dead concert.
Pangos was a success from the minute he put on a uniform at Gonzaga, coming off the bench in his first game as a freshman last year and then starting every game since. Olynyk, who grew seven inches while in high school, struggled off the bench for two seasons before taking a year off last season to bulk up and work on his skill set and become one of the top big men in the country.
Together they've got the Bulldogs at 27-2 with two games left until the West Coast Conference tournament.
It would all be heady stuff, except Gonzaga has been here before. Maybe not quite this high in the rankings, but coach Mark Few's team has won four of every five games since he took over in 1999, and the Zags always seem to be in the mix late in the season.
If there's a knock against the Bulldogs - the official team nickname, though they're known everywhere as the Zags - it's the usual one for teams from smaller schools (Gonzaga's enrollment is about 7,500). They play in a conference with schools they almost always dominate, making it hard to get a fix on just how good they are once the conference schedule begins.
If they were a football team, they'd be Boise State. The formula is win a few tough ones early, then beat up on conference wannabes and move up in the rankings while teams in more competitive conferences struggle. This deep into the season, though, Gonzaga has no doubt it belongs among the elite teams in the country.
"The polls mean a lot more this time of year than they do in November, December, even January," Few said. "All of us are being judged on the true body of work. It's definitely rewarding. It establishes us as a national program, which I believe we have been for the last 10 years. This group has done a great job of competing at that level, winning games at the highest level."
To win a bunch of them in a row in the NCAA tournament requires the kind of talent that some Gonzaga teams of the past have lacked. The difference this year might be Olynyk, a rare big man with the ball-handling instincts of the guard he once was.
After redshirting as a junior last year, he's now a potential first-round NBA pick averaging 17.7 points and seven rebounds a game.
"He grew up and his game grew up," Few said.
The same might be said about the school nobody in basketball considers little anymore.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or HTTP://TWITTER.COM/TIMDAHLBERG
The Jayhawks have responded with five straight victories, including Self's milestone win on Monday night.
Now the conference crown that seemed out of reach is Kansas' to lose.
Elijah Johnson scored a career-high 39 points - including eight in the final 29 seconds of regulation and 12 in overtime - and No. 6 Kansas rallied to beat Iowa State 108-96.
"I thought that when we lost those three in a row, we put ourselves in a situation where it was going to be very, very, very difficult because the toughest part of our schedule remained," Self said. "Our guys responded really well."
Travis Releford added 19 points for the Jayhawks (24-4, 12-3 Big 12), who snapped Iowa State's 22-game home winning streak and kept pace with No. 13 Kansas State - which has already lost twice to Kansas - atop the Big 12.
They have Johnson to thank for that.
He hit two 3s and then made two free throws with 4.9 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 90-all. He and Releford buried 3s to put Kansas ahead 100-92 with 2:03 left in overtime, and Johnson drilled a 30-footer with 54 seconds left that deflated a sellout crowd.
"He was in attack mode. He just played great," Self said of Johnson. "He deserved a night like (Monday) because he does work hard and his attitude is so good. He was actually special."
The path to a share of a ninth straight Big 12 title is now clear for the Jayhawks, who lost to the Cowboys, TCU and Oklahoma before turning things around.
Kansas' remaining regular-season schedule; West Virginia and Texas Tech at home, Baylor on the road, doesn't appear that daunting as the Jayhawks go for at least a share of their ninth straight Big 12 title.
"We control our own destiny. So does K-State. Of course, this is a hard place to win, as evidenced by their long winning streak. If we take care of business at home, we know we'll at least have a chance to play, get a piece of it going to Baylor," Self said.
Korie Lucious scored 23 points and Tyrus McGee had 22 for the Cyclones (19-9, 9-6), who dropped their third overtime game in Big 12 play - and their second straight at the hands of the Jayhawks.
After the game a handful of fans in the student section hurled small plastic megaphones at the Jayhawks as they ran back to their locker room.
The anger seemed to be directed at Johnson's dunk with 2 seconds left in overtime and the game well in hand. Johnson opened the postgame press conference by apologizing to Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, saying he simply got caught up in the moment.
"I shouldn't have dunked that ball," Johnson said. "I should have dribbled it out."
For Iowa State, this loss was painfully similar to the one in Lawrence on Jan. 9.
Ben McLemore banked in a late 3 to force overtime in a game the Cyclones had controlled throughout. The Jayhawks prevailed, and though the Cyclones bounced back they certainly didn't forget their lost night in Lawrence.
But with March just around the corner, Iowa State and the rest of the league are chasing the Jayhawks - again.
"Our guys battled. I've been saying that all year. Hopefully we have a lot of season left," Hoiberg said. "I love our guys. They're going to continue to fight back."
Self, who began his head coaching career at Oral Roberts, is 293-57 at Kansas. He tied former Temple legend John Chaney by reaching 500 victories in his first 662 games.
His milestone night got off to an interesting start, though.
Self was called for a rare technical foul for arguing a call less than 3 minutes into the game - much to the delight of a raucous, sellout crowd decked out in bright gold.
Self said after the game that he wanted to draw it in order to fire up his team.
It worked - as have many other moves on the journey to 500.
"I don't think it really means that much to be honest. I'm glad we got it. It means I've been doing it for a while," Self said. "All I really care is if this team is having the best year possible."
Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: WWW.TWITTER.COM/LUKEMEREDITHAP
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - About 30,000 people in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas woke up without power as heavy, wet snow hitting the region downed power lines.
Kansas City Power & Light reported at 6 a.m. Tuesday that just over 25,000 customers were without power. The outages stretched throughout the utility's service area from Emporia, Kan., to Sedalia, Mo., but the highest number of outages was in the Kansas City metro area.
BPU, which provides service in Wyandotte County on the Kansas side of the metro area was reporting about 7,600 customers without service. Westar Energy reported 8,900 outages throughout its Kansas region, which includes pockets near Kansas City. Westar's highest number of outages early Tuesday was in Greenwood and Douglas counties, which includes the Wichita area.
That's exactly what happened in 1790, when the Founding Fathers overlooked their parochial interests — and defied their staunchest backers — by agreeing, for the good of the fledgling union, to put America's capital in a neutral place along the Potomac River.
Would the same outcome happen today? Fat chance.
In this polarized and partisan era, Washington careens from one crisis to the next even as the country faces huge problems that threaten its standing in the world. With power divided on Capitol Hill, bipartisan solutions are necessary. And yet, while both Democrats and Republicans talk a lot about compromise — a cross-the-aisle, solutions-driven approach — few seem willing to give ground to fix what ails the nation.
The latest example is the stalemate over deep budget cuts set to take effect Friday, absent a bipartisan deal. The cuts likely will inconvenience average Americans and may slow the nation's fragile economic recovery. Both sides are dug in on their ideological positions. President Barack Obama and his Democrats want more tax increases, while Republicans demand more spending cuts.
This is the fifth fiscal standoff since this period of divided government began in 2011, when Republicans took over the House while Democrats continued to control the Senate. In the other cases, both sides reached mini-deals to avert immediate crisis — only to ignore the larger issues. Skyrocketing debt and persistent deficits. Rampant waste, fraud and abuse. Budget-busting Social Security and Medicaid programs.
Why does Washington get so caught up this cycle of panic — whether manufactured or real — only to ultimately put a Band-Aid on the country's biggest gushers without ever mending the underlying wounds?
Politicians have little incentive to take the risk of working with the opposing party to reach solutions that will fundamentally fix a problem. They operate in a system that makes it hard to roll the dice because they're putting their own jobs on the line. Robust Republican and Democratic parties — and their conservative and liberal activists, whose voices drown out the centrist Americans seeking remedies — usually rebuke them rather than reward them.
"Rebels, risk takers and creative thinkers are marginalized early and are seldom promoted up the ladder of local/state/national politics," says David A. Drupa of the Society for Risk Analysis.
These days, he says, politicians seem to be allowing the short-term benefit for themselves — winning re-election — drive their decision-making, without getting far enough along in their return-on-investment analysis to examine the long-term benefit for the nation.
"They're trying to win the next battle, the next matchup, the next race, at all our peril," Drupa says.
Both parties promise to use their bank accounts to protect lawmakers who stick with their ideological positions, and punish those who don't. Deep-pocketed groups on the far right and far left also go after those deemed unfaithful.
At the same time, party leaders have proven extraordinarily successful in drawing congressional boundaries in a way that actually discourages House members from collaborating and all but ensures their re-elections if they don't. Most districts are stocked with hard-core Republicans and Democrats who typically will vote for lawmakers only if they demonstrate consistent party loyalty.
So the easy thing for lawmakers to do is just that. It's much harder to meet in the middle.
Thus, when Washington's players do end up compromising on the meaty matters, it's usually in a piecemeal way that kicks the larger problems to future generations. Those who dare to try to solve the big problems typically find they lack the juice, lose re-election or get so fed up with the gridlock that they retire.
All this is precisely what George Washington worried would happen if the country devolved into factions.
"He thought political parties would tear up the union and it wouldn't survive," says Willard Sterne Randall, a biographer and historian who has written several books on the Founding Fathers.
The first president's fear of factionalism was so great that he decided on a second term as Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, whose political bases were businessmen and farmers, respectively, battled over competing visions for the union.
Yet while they differed, they also compromised when necessary — as they did during the "Dinner Table Bargain" that resulted in Washington becoming the nation's capital instead of New York, Philadelphia or elsewhere.
"They weren't at each other's throats politically. They could get together on a major issue," Randall says. "They wanted the union to survive, so they compromised where they had to for the good of it. That's the kind of tone there was. They were pragmatic idealists, and in Congress now, they are ideologues."
So how do we get back to those more reasonable roots?
The Democratic and Republican parties are strong, and they probably won't face serious threats from third parties in the near future. They certainly won't eliminate gerrymandering unless voters force it.
So maybe it's time for something radical, or at least radically reasonable. Maybe this is the moment for a few of the frustrated Americans in the middle — many of whom reject the extremes, complain about stalemate and fear for the nation's future — to take a risk.
What if they stepped forward as candidates with a promise that they'll do only what they think will solve the country's big problems, regardless of what it could mean for their political careers? What if they rejected the strict adherence to orthodoxy that party bosses demand? What if they promised to only serve one term, choosing explicitly to put the country's future over their own?
And then, by not going to Congress primarily to get re-elected, they just might end up with a surprising reward: getting re-elected.
Wouldn't the country — not to mention this supposedly neutral city on the banks of the Potomac — be better for it?
___ EDITOR'S NOTE — Liz Sidoti is the national politics editor for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/lsidoti