Hopefully this post will be interrupted by the phone ringing. That means a couple of calls from Akron have reached the Inland Northwest so I can put together an article on the Zips for Tuesday’s S-R.
Anyway, there’s more notes and links below.
First, some links. There’s a million of them out there, but I know folks out there are savvy enough to find specifically what they’re looking for. I’ll point you to John Blanchette’s column on why GU’s rugged non-conference scheduling pays off this time of year, my recap of Selection Sunday for Gonzaga, Jeremy Pargo making news back in his hometown of Chicago, the Zips making news in their hometown Beacon Journal and in nearby Cleveland (about 30-40 minutes drive time from Akron).
—Onward. Gonzaga lost five games, all to teams in the NCAA tournament. Connecticut is a No. 1 seed, Memphis just missed out on a top seed and settled for No. 2, Utah is seeded fifth and will play Arizona, a No. 12. And Portland State earned a 13 seed and meets No. 4 Xavier.
Gonzaga also defeated Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Maryland — all three made the field — at the Old Spice Classic. In fact, Oklahoma State and Tennessee square off in a first-round matchup. Siena also made the field, meaning six of the eight Old Spice teams made the NCAAs. The only ones who didn’t: Wichita State and Georgetown, which is in the NIT. Wichita State is in the College Basketball Invitational where it will host Buffalo, which lost to Akron in the MAC tournament championship.
—Gonzaga is making its 11th straight trip to the NCAAs, tied with Texas and Wisconsin for the fifth longest active streak. Arizona squeaked in for its 25th straight appearance. Kansas is next at 20, followed by Duke (14) and Michigan State (12).
—WIth Gonzaga heading to Portland, it didn’t take long for the Mark Few-to-Oregon question to come up. Ducks coach Ernie Kent seems permanently attached to the hot seat and his latest team finished last in the Pac-10. Oregon will be the only Pac-10 team not in a post-season tournament. Few’s family lives in the Eugene area and he’s also friends with outgoing Ducks’ A.D. Pat Kilkenny. Mike Bellotti will take over for Kilkenny, who leaves office July 1.
Few’s response to the Oregon rumors: “I’m here to coach Gonzaga, that’s my main objective. I don’t spend time talking about things that aren’t even open or available. To me, that’s a personal thing between me and my family. That’s about it. I’d rather just talk about the Zags.”
He said virtually the same thing when the topic of Arizona’s opening was broached prior to the GU-Arizona game in December.
—You’ve probably read, seen or listened to dozens of quotes from GU’s players by now, but here’s a couple more from Sunday’s interviews that I wanted to get in.
Sophomore Austin Daye admits he’s a bit of a novice when it comes to following bracket projections, etc. “Some of these guys are veterans and the coaches are looking at brackets, I had no idea,” he said. “When I realized we were in the South Region, I was thinking, ‘Where in the South are we playing?’ I didn’t know we had a chance to play in Portland, but it was good to hear.”
Senior Micah Downs on scrimmaging the ex-Zags the other day: “We went up about 10 early, they tied it and then we went on a 22-0 run.” Administrative assistant Alex Hernandez had a tough day, Downs reports. “He had like four turnovers in three possessions, and that’s not even possible.”
All kidding aside, Downs said the team is appreciative of former Bulldogs’ Hernandez, Casey Calvary, Brian Michaelson and Matt Santangelo. “It’s fun because they beat on us and they’re tough guys. It helps us get ready,” Downs said.
Downs on Saint Mary’s being passed by for the NCAAs: “I am surprised, especially with a couple teams that did get in, like Arizona. They play in a tougher conference, but they lost 13 games or something. Saint Mary’s is 26-6 and Patty (Mills) is back. I thought they’d be in there.”
One of Few’s closest coaching friends is Texas A&M’s Mark Turgeon. The Aggies moved off the bubble and into the tournament on Sunday. They drew BYU, a repeat of last year’s opener won by Texas A&M.
“I can’t fathom how that happens,” Few said. “If Davidson had popped up against us … I don’t think we’d been too excited.”
Josh Heytvelt on GU maintaining a tough practice schedule following the WCC tournament: “We did that before the conference tournament and it really fared well for us. It’s on the coaches’ minds that they’re not going to take it easy on us so we come out with the same fight and desire that we did in the conference tournament.”
(The phone did ring, by the way, and I had an entertaining conversation with Akron coach Keith Dambrot. I’ll post our look at the Zips later today.)