MORAGA, Calif. – ESPN’s GameDay crew – host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg – took a few minutes Friday to answer questions from a few members of the media.
Q: Has Gonzaga been battle tested enough to be prepared for the NCAA tournament?
JB: I think they are. They play one of the most challenging nonconference schedules in the country. I think the WCC is a far better league than it gets credit for. Their record has proven they’re battle tested and when they get into the tournament they’ve performed at a really high level.
The one thing the masses want to see is a Final Four. But once Gonzaga breaks through and they will, it may be this year, the shine from that will illuminate all the other amazing accomplishments they’ve had.”
JW: That’s always a question you’re going to have with the WCC. Look, the Zags’ resume is impeccable … they’ve done a great job in the nonconference. I never really worry about the level they’re able to play, but the only question you always have for both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s is it feels like the two times they get challenged are when they play each other. When you start thinking about how other teams have to battle through the gauntlet of the playing in the Big 12, SEC, ACC, it almost prepares you for being battle tested because then when you get in the NCAA tournament you’re comfortable being in uncomfortable situations.
Doesn’t mean they can’t do it. You just wonder if that may be the one knock on them going into the NCAA tournament.
Q: What’s the key in the Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s matchup?
SG: Tempo. Saint Mary’s needs to own the tempo. They need to spread Gonzaga out. They need to move the ball and move people, get to that high ball-screen action and then make the extra pass and make shots.
Gonzaga wants to play a little faster. The way that Saint Mary’s plays has the ability to frustrate anyone. Whoever owns the tempo is going to have an advantage.”
Q: What’s Gonzaga’s margin of error for staying on the one-seed line?
JB: “I think having a loss is fine, I don’t think anybody wants a loss. They don’t have as much margin of error as if they had a loss in the ACC or the Big Ten. They don’t get the same benefit of the doubt. Look, the 25-0 is a big deal, I don’t care what league you’re in. But if you look at all their analytics, all their numbers back up how good they are. They’re third in country in offense and fourth in defense.
RD: That’s one of the discussions we’re going to have first thing on the show. Every other team if they lose, and understandably so it’s a long season, if they lose a tough road game against a good team we explain it away. Sometimes that’s completely justifiable. If Gonzaga does have a loss here on the road against a good team, tough environment, do we give them the same benefit of the doubt? If it were to happen, my answer would be yes.
Q: Toughness is your thing (Bilas authored a book on toughness a few years ago). Who on each team embodies that the best?
JB: I’d say Nigel Williams-Goss is one of those guys because he’s such a good leader and he’s a tough-minded player on both ends. I’m a big fan of (Jock) Landale and the way he plays. He impacts the game on both ends. He’s so difficult to guard and he runs the floor.
Q: Best team you’ve seen?
RD: Despite the fact that I saw them lose last night (to Duke), when at full strength and playing engaged and to their potential, I think North Carolina is the best team. Villanova is awfully tough and knows how to win games and I think Gonzaga is really good. I’m not sure I expected them to be this good this year after what they lost the last couple years.
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