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Gonzaga Basketball

TV Take: ESPN game, studio crews fall in love with Gonzaga all over again in rout of San Francisco

By Vince Grippi For The Spokesman-Review

It took the first West Coast Conference game of 2021 to get ESPN to Spokane. Sort of.

Sure, the game was on ESPN2. And Jon Sciambi, the most visible redhead the network has, was handling the play-by-play, joined by Fran Fraschilla in the analyst role.

But …

“I miss being in Spokane for this one,” Fraschilla said as the top-ranked Zags (10-0, 1-0 in the WCC) made a first-half run en route to an 85-62 win over the San Francisco Dons.

He and Sciambi were not on-site, another change brought to you by the pandemic.

What they saw …

• Viewers were greeted with home movies, circa 2021, early on. As soon as the broadcast moved from ESPN News (due to length of Oklahoma’s win over Tennessee), we got to view Sciambi’s home studio in New York and Fraschilla’s abode in Texas.

And if you wanted to know exactly where in Texas, Fraschilla explained it in a way true Bulldogs fans can understand, using Drew Timme geography.

“(A) young man (Timme) from Richardson, Texas, about 5 miles north from where I am calling this game right now,” he said.

Maybe that explains why Fraschilla, who has been in Spokane often, forgot how large McCarthey Athletic Center really is.

After Andrew Nembhard was assessed a first-half technical for seemingly taunting the San Francisco bench, Fraschilla was not surprised.

“You can get away with that when there are 10,000 in here, Andrew,” he said. “(There is) nobody in the McCarthey Center except players, coaches and staff.”

One has to wonder how loud the Kennel would be if another 4,000 students were allowed in a place that holds 6,000.

• If you skipped the halftime show, you missed some of the best promos for Gonzaga in years. And we’re not even talking about the taped ones the school uses to sell itself.

Nope, we’re talking the conversation that took place in the ESPN studios between Sean Farham and Seth Greenberg.

Yes, we know both have been on the Gonzaga bandwagon a long time (maybe not as long as Fraschilla, but that’s another column). This was different.

Greenberg: “This Gonzaga team is the best passing, best offensive team I’ve seen in 20 years.”

Farham: “They are the Alabama of college basketball. What I mean by that, you’ve got multiple players who could be in the player of the year conversation, you have that one. But they can hurt you in variety of ways. There’s not a hole they have offensively.”

Pretty high praise. But there was more.

Greenberg was adamant Corey Kispert had to be in the player of the year conversation.

Farham took it to the next level. He predicted the Zags will be the first team since Indiana in 1975 to finish the season, including the NCAA Tournament, undefeated.

What we saw …

• NCAA officials usually are handed a point of emphasis based on a rule the organization wants enforced each season. When it comes to Gonzaga this year on every broadcast, the point of emphasis is always the Zags’ efficient offense. And well it should be, as good as Mark Few’s team is on that end.

But Saturday’s win, at least the easy nature of it, came via their defense. At least the early second-half surge – a 28-11 run in the first 12 minutes – was.

The Dons (7-5, 1-1) have given the Zags troubles recently with their dribble-drive, shoot-the-3 flow on the offensive end. But in that 12-minute stretch, Gonzaga took away anything at the rim and challenged just about every 3-pointer.

The defense resulted in the Dons shooting 3 of 16 in that stretch and a measly 2 of 11 from beyond the arc.

• We’ll finish with one more ESPN statement. It comes from Fraschilla, and it was about Jalen Suggs, the freshman point guard who Fraschilla agrees is a top-five draft pick.

His comp for Suggs was Chauncey Billups, the 17-year NBA veteran who led Detroit to the 2004 NBA title and was a five-time all-star.