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Zags happy to be invited, and seem to mean it

An eight?

The NCAA basketball committee made the home team a No. 8 seed? Did the selectors not get to touch the Maui Classic trophy? Were they not on those brutal hops to Illinois and Memphis to see the lads emerge victorious? When they were assessing the “body of work” did they simply fixate on the derriere – the losses at USF and Loyola? Are they unaware that Gonzaga simply doesn’t “do” No. 8 seeds anymore?


What, there was no room in the Krasnoyarsk pod? Did the Niagara Falls Visitors and Convention Bureau lobby for the Zags as a tourist attraction because the Maid of the Mist boat is in for repairs? Did they think the Bulldogs needed to bank the upgrade for topping 30,000 air miles this season? Did they think Mark Few had a hankering for a Kimmelweck roll?

And drawing the nation’s best defensive team in the first round? Or seeing Syracuse looming as a potential second-round opponent, playing just a few frost heaves from campus?

Well, it’s appalling. Just appalling.

Isn’t it?

“When our name came up on the bracket, I was sitting by Meech (Goodson),” said junior guard Steven Gray, “and we just started laughing. I don’t know why. It’s just funny that what we’ve been doing this whole year is how we’re going to end this season, too.”

Traveling cross country, he means. Playing in someone else’s madhouse.

As for the seeding, the site, the foe, the circumstances, well, check out the coach’s take:

“We should be giddy wherever we get sent,” Few said, “whether it’s Timbuktu or Siberia – not to compare Buffalo to that.”

No, of course not.

The black and white of it: The eighth-seeded Zags play No. 9 Florida State on Friday night in Buffalo – New York, not Wyoming – with the reward for winning a likely date with top-seeded Syracuse, just a hop and a skip down the thruway. So, no favors.

The shades of gray: the amusing evolution of Gonzaga’s in-house reaction to Selection Sunday.

In the early years of this amazing run – now 12 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament – just taking part was a thrill, and the double-digit seed was almost a badge of honor. Being the underdog was not just OK, it was part of the uniform.

Then came 2002, when the CBS cameras caught the faces of the Zags swallowing a No. 6 seed as if it were hemlock, no chaser. They promptly were handed a lesson in mistaken entitlement by the Wyoming Cowboys, and gradually assumed a more stoic response – though, truthfully, they were a bit chapped about being shipped to play lower-seeded Davidson in its backyard two years ago, and that was a particularly clueless NCAA whiff.

But now it’s as if everyone has taken a Xanax.

Few’s perspective is both welcome and proper, even if it will inevitably be seen as Pollyanna-ish in a culture that prefers to view the NCAAs as a means of deciding 64 losers and not one winner. On Sunday, he drove to work feeling the appropriate mix of excitement and apprehension – and then realized that colleagues like Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun and Ben Howland had no stake in watching the selection show at all.

“Some pretty significant streaks ended today,” said Few, whose school is now fourth on the list of consecutive NCAA appearances. “We’re still standing.”

Still, the Zags being hurled three time zones away and given an eight hinted at some committee pencil work to make its bracketing principles play out. It’s possible Gonzaga could have been moved a line because BYU won’t play on Sundays, or to avoid pairing conference rivals before the regionals.

Surely it confirmed as a lie the notion that the West Coast Conference Tournament loss to Saint Mary’s was the one that knocked the Zags out of the Spokane pod. One loss does not drop a team three or more seeds.

And finally, it suggested that as bad as you thought basketball in the West was this year, the committee thought it was worse. Even then, it couldn’t resist making a bigger joke out of it. Only seven Western teams were placed in the two Pacific time zone pods; only two of those were higher than an 11th seed.

Of course, only one team from the West was higher than a seven seed. You can’t make chicken salad out of Malibu Barbies.

“It’s the NCAA tournament,” GU assistant Leon Rice said. “Most of us are getting on a plane, and it doesn’t matter much where it’s going. And if you get caught up in where it is going, you’re probably missing the point.”

Even if it’s bound for the point of no return. Not to compare Buffalo to that.

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