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John Blanchette: Count on out-of-this-world play during Gonzaga’s bright future

“Welcome to Selection Sunday 2038 on PBS. I’m your host, Greg Gumbel and, yes, I am 91 years old, but I’m going to keep doing this until we get it right. CBS and TBS screwed up the selection show beyond recognition, as you know, so the NCAA figured how bad could it get on public TV? Sitting alongside me are our college basketball analysts Sean Farnham …”

Farnham: “Shout out to the Davenport Hotel!”

Dan Dickau: “It’s been torn down, Sean. Spokane put up another parking garage in its place.”

Gumbel: “… And Dan Dickau.”

Dickau: “Great to be here again, Greg. Wait, you’re not Greg Heister.”

Gumbel: “No, I’m told he’s busy producing the Iditarod Senior Tour broadcasts.”

Farnham: “Hasn’t global warming melted all the glaciers up there?”

Gumbel: “It’s a paddleboat race now, yes. But we’re already veering dangerously toward Charles Barkley territory, so let’s bring it back to basketball and the 2038 NCAA Basketball Tournament – or as we know it, May Madness.”

Dickau: “I’ll never get used to that.”

Gumbel: “Well, college basketball finally got tired of being irrelevant for two months while football sucked the country’s attention, so they pushed the start of the season back to Jan. 1 in order to be finished in May.”

Dickau: “Like the Mariners always are.”

Gumbel: “But before we reveal the bracket, we have to take a moment to recognize an unprecedented milestone this year: the Gonzaga Bulldogs making the tournament field for a record 40th consecutive time.”

Farnham: “Absolutely mind-boggling, Greg. Forty years! Think of it. The average American is halfway to having his mortgage paid off in that time!”

Dickau: “But not his student loans.”

Gumbel: “Dan Dickau, you were part of the early years of this incredible run. What’s changed at Gonzaga over that time?”

Dickau: “A lot of the main characters, including coach Mark Few. He retired unexpectedly after winning Gonzaga’s first national championship in 2019 and bolted for Australia to be a fishing guide on the Cobungra River. There was some controversy when he disowned the statue they put up outside McCarthey Athletic Center, because it depicted him not with a fly rod but as a live bait fisherman.”

Farnham: “But the Zags kept rolling, Greg. Mark’s hand-picked successor Tommy Lloyd won four more NCAA titles, including back to back in 2031 and ’32.”

Gumbel: “How’d they keep it going?”

Dickau: “The same way they always did: constantly growing the program. In those early years it was the little things, like when they started flying road trips by charter.”

Farnham: “That’s so 2010. Now they teleport to away games – kind of an homage to former athletic director Mike Roth, who always said that’s the only way the Zags could join the Big East. Great touch by current AD Nigel Williams-Goss.”

Dickau: “Plus, there’s Walk-On Pavilion, the new 20,000-seat arena built by former Zag Brian Pete, who hit it big in hedge funds.”

Gumbel: “Speaking of the Big East …”

Farnham: “It’s the Big EastWest now, Greg, The Zags have hopscotched their way from the West Coast Conference to the Mountain West to the Big 12 over the years. They finally landed in this cross-country superleague that sprouted from the Pac-12’s decision to drop football after the inexorable slide that started with the 1-8 bowl flop in 2017. The Zags, Arizona, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Oregon and of course two-time NCAA champion Grand Canyon – that’s a strong western division.”

Dickau: “Why wasn’t Saint Mary’s invited?”

Gumbel: “They opted to limit their road games to schools that can be reached by Bay Area Rapid Transit. Dan, you were there when Gonzaga started mining the international talent market – that’s only grown, right?”

Dickau: “No question. Over the years, Tommy found players in every corner of the globe – Greenland, Tristan da Cunha, Tibet, Palau. His big coup was landing the 7-foot-2 son of a French satellite-tracking engineer from the Kerguelen Islands. Only four boats a year travel there. Too bad the kid was a one-and-done.”

Gumbel: “Tommy Lloyd stepped down four years ago and turned things over to his hand-picked successor – his son, Liam, who won a national title of his own in 2037 and has broadened the recruiting scope even further.”

Farnham: “You’re talking about Xacylanx, the 8-footer from the planet Galtrec-7, on which scientists discovered alien life forms just three years ago.”

Gumbel: “Is he the centerpiece of this year’s Zags?”

Dickau: “Surprisingly, no. This team is a pure ensemble with some familiar names: Gary Bell III, Sam Dower III, Zach Norvell III, Greg Foster III and Johnathan Williams IV – all sons of former Zags. Oh, and David Stockton’s kid.”

Gumbel: “Is he a chip off the old granddad?”

Farnham: “We’ll see. John Stockton, you know, is 75 now, but he’s still running in the Sunday games at the Warehouse. Calling all the fouls, too, of course.”

Gumbel: “That was quite a run the Zags made to the title last year. I especially enjoyed it when the robot floor mopper got in the way of Josh Perkins Jr. dunking on that breakaway.”

Farnham: “Dunking. Right.”

Dickau: “Good one, Greg.”

Gumbel: “Are Zag fans bored with all this success?”

Dickau: “Some just watch at home on VirtualZag chip implants that replicate being there, developed by Hachimura Technologies of Japan, owned by the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. But like the old Herak Club crowd, they usually go to bed early.”

Farnham: “And they hate those blue sapphire/gunmetal gray/platinum road jerseys.”

Gumbel: “And now on to the bracket. The Zags, naturally, are a No. 1 seed again …”


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Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura scores 25 points in Japan’s World Cup victory

UPDATED: 7:58 p.m.

Rui Hachimura led the way Monday, scoring 25 points as Japan picked up another huge win, 75-60 over Iran, in the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers. Hachimura, Gonzaga’s 6-foot-8 junior forward, filled out the stat sheet with seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals at sold-out Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo.