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Gonzaga Basketball

Blanchette: There’s nothing like GameDay in Moraga to get Bulldogs fans exiting the building

Another affront to the Gonzaga sensibilities arrived Saturday.

No, Oregon didn’t jump from 13th to first in the polls on the strength of hide-strapping Arizona to a pine rail and sending the Wildcats up the Monon Line. That happens Monday.

Just kidding.

Even with all the Top 10 carnage on Saturday – and voters will be doing triage through the weekend – the Ducks won’t be any higher than, oh, No. 2.

But earlier in the day, word came that ESPN College GameDay had heard all the Twit-hollering in Spokane and finished the eenie-meenies and, yes, the Bulldogs will be part of the show.

Next Saturday. In Moraga.


Yeah, Moraga.

The second showdown between the top-ranked Zags and (currently) No. 18 Saint Mary’s will bring Rece and Jay and Seth and the other Jay and Dan and Maria to the Bay Area, the first time two West Coast Conference teams have been the featured attraction since the telecast began in 2005.

Which is kind of nice, sure.

But the collective reaction in these parts was not unlike what happens when your favorite TV weather smile comes on to report that there’s another 3 inches of snow on the way.

Ho, meet hum.

Attention was quickly turned to other developments, most notably Nigel Williams-Goss being on enforced hiatus after spraining his ankle making all those big buckets against Brigham Young. That resulted in some time in a boot and a seat on the bench.

For the game, that is.

Yes, there was another one of those. The final score was Gonzaga a lot, Santa Clara not a lot. Josh Perkins ran the point solo and splendidly in Williams-Goss’ absence, and there was much defense and dunkage.


And now back to the accouterments of being unbeaten and, as the T-shirts proclaim, top dogs.

When the GameDay announcement went out over the loudspeakers Saturday night, the response was drowned out by the beating of feet to the exits, the Zags being up 32 points at the time. The Kennel Club couldn’t even work up a chant.

But then, when you’re up for a part, you don’t applaud the other guy’s screen test.

You could just sense the vibe from the masses: What good is being No. 1 in the country if it can’t even lure GameDay to your campus?

Now, this is just how the schedule breaks. Saint Mary’s already made its visit to Spokane, back in January. The Zags were only No. 5 then and ESPN decided its money was better spent doing … well, actually, there wasn’t even as GameDay that day. According to the flagship show of college basketball, the season didn’t begin until the next Saturday, when the show turned up at – surprise! – Duke.

Which is part of the silliness over the fandom of any school – Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, you name it – getting all worked up trying to get Rece and the pieces in its gym. Why? For an afterthought? You don’t see ESPN’s football show just ramping up in late October.

Hell, the casual sports viewer likely doesn’t even know there is a basketball GameDay. The first hour comes on before most people have slept off TGIF, and by prime time America is out to dinner and a movie.

Besides, if Lee Corso isn’t putting on a huge animal head, how big a deal can it be?

Especially if it’s on someone else’s campus.

Oh, there’s some interesting features and lively chatter and solid analysis, some of it even coming from Jay Bilas and Jay Williams, which is at least one of Mike Krzyzewski’s ex-players too many.

They should call the show ESPN College DukeDay.

But it’s just another TV show. They gave the Kardashians one, didn’t they?

Now, nobody in the Gonzaga locker room was taking that attitude, nor should they. Zags don’t get to be Zags without picking up on saying the right thing.

“I know it’s going to be crazy,” offered Johnathan Williams III.

No question. The Gaels sometimes sell out their joint even when the opponent is someone else, but nothing brings the blood to a rolling boil than a visit from the Zags. This could just blow the lid off McKeon Pavilion, a cozy 3,500-seater.

That’s the smallest venue to host the show. The previous record-holder? Well, yes, that would be Gonzaga, when the Zags beat Stanford back in 2006. Surely somebody out here in town must have had a close encounter with Digger Phelps, who was part of the crew then, that made the occasion memorable.

But maybe there’s no sense being completely blasé about it.

“We’ve been looking forward to it,” said freshman Zach Collins, “and with the work we’ve put in and the wins we have, I think we deserve it.”

But GameDay is like real estate, really. It’s all about location, location, location.

“Anything here,” Collins agreed, “is better than anywhere else.”