Before Gonzaga’s 86-69 rout of BYU even tipped off Thursday night, ESPN’s Sean Farnham was already disappointed.
No, not by the top-ranked Zags and their hitting-on-all-cylinders offense. That was every bit of what the analyst and his play-by-play partner, Dave Flemming, expected.
His disappointment, expressed on Twitter in the afternoon, was the Davenport Hotel’s not having his favorite, shrimp flatbread, on its menu.
As for the game, there was little disenchantment with anything – except, maybe, the lack of competition.
What they saw …
• Farnham is the Davenport’s biggest national booster and has been for years. He’s also one of the most traditional of ESPN’s color analysts – and a long-time Gonzaga advocate. The former UCLA player said last week he feels the Zags (11-0, 2-0 in West Coast Conference play) will be the first team since Indiana in 1976 to finish an NCAA-title season undefeated.
The first few minutes of this game seemed to validate that opinion.
Gonzaga scored the first eight points. Built a 16-2 lead. Stretched it to 23-2. The WCC showdown was over.
“I can’t remember 4 minutes of hoops more spectacular than the 4 minutes we just saw from the Zags,” Flemming said after the first media timeout.
• As the Zags rolled, building as much as a 32-point lead, Farnham made another pronouncement about Gonzaga’s place in this year’s college basketball hierarchy.
“Very rare do we have a great team in college basketball,” Farnham said. “We have a great team this year, and they are the Gonzaga Bulldogs.”
• Halfway through the first half, Farnham was set to address how BYU (9-3, 0-1) could get back in the game. The Zags, however, didn’t let it happen.
“For BYU,” Farnham said as the Cougars brought the ball up the court against the Zags’ three-quarters-court press, “what you want to do …” He was interrupted by Anton Watson leaping and grabbing Alex Barcello’s reversal pass out of the air.
Flemming jumped in. “Not that,” he said.
Yep, that’s right.
• The game was scheduled late, as Gonzaga lost its game with Santa Clara due to COVID-19 issues among the Broncos. BYU had the same problem with Pacific, part of a long layoff for the Cougars. (As Farnham said more than once, they haven’t played since Dec. 23.)
The two were supposed to meet in Spokane next month but instead of sitting out, the game was scheduled.
What we saw …
• No, Gonzaga doesn’t play football. But the Zags can’t escape the college game’s long shadow. Not when they’re on ESPN.
If you were quick enough to switch over to ESPN News for the start of the game – ESPN was still busy with its made-for-commercials football awards show – you witnessed Farnham compare the Bulldogs to Alabama’s No. 1-ranked football team.
His main evidence? The Zags’ big three, Drew Timme, Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs, with the Tide’s running back, Heisman Trophy-winning receiver and quarterback.
It’s a comparison Farnham first made last week while working ESPN’s studio show.
It was not a bad opening. But was worth seeing twice? No. We did, however. When the game moved back to the mothership at 5:45 p.m., all the effort, time and, yes, money, had to be featured on the network’s main channel.
• Speaking of Farnham’s comparison, Suggs showed in the 4-minute stretch that Flemming loved why his is Mac Jones, Alabama’s quarterback.
The former high school QB, the mention of which is already a cliché, grabbed a defensive rebound, turned and spied Joel Ayayi racing downcourt. A quick step, and a one-handed, almost-length-of-the-court pass, led Ayayi to an open spot and a layup.
Farnham jumped on the pass early, reveling in how it justified his comparison. But Flemming wouldn’t let it go.
Well, Flemming and the folks editing the highlights, as the play continued to run throughout the broadcast. And it’s sure to have a life during today’s SportsCenters.
• With the Zags leading 52-29 at half, Farnham and Flemming, sitting about halfway up the empty McCarthey Athletic Center stands, went to the Alabama well when they returned, though the Crimson Tide weren’t mentioned by name until a couple of minutes into the second half.
The Davenport’s lack of shrimp flatbread, however, made an appearance.
Farnham went on a little rant. All in good fun, sure, but we’re guessing it’s the last time Farnham’s favorite is not on the menu when he flies into Spokane.
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