View Full Version : Fun reading for Tournament Game Day - Boling, Sporting News, Blanchette

03-08-2009, 04:33 PM
From Dave Boling over at the News Tribune (http://www.thenewstribune.com/sports/columnists/boling/story/650788.html):

WCC neutrality lands Few, Zags in Vegas’ glitter

Published: 03/08/09 1:05 am

Mark Few has lobbied for neutrality so much over the years we thought he would be happiest if he could get the West Coast Conference basketball tournament to be conducted in Switzerland.

And have it reffed by U.N. officials.

Turns out, Las Vegas is just fine by him.

He’s seemed a little cranky that, although his Gonzaga teams have won eight of the past 10 WCC tournaments, the two they’ve lost in that stretch were against San Diego teams playing on their home court.

For the first time in the tournament’s 23-year history, it’s at a neutral site this year – Orleans Arena. As the top seed, the Zags received a double-bye into tonight’s semifinal round. The championship game is set for 6 p.m. Monday and will be televised on ESPN.

“I’m just excited; it’s off a team’s home floor,” he said of the new tournament location. “I think it’s a great move for our league. Finally it’s fair for the student-athlete … that’s the best thing you can do for the guys on every team. I think it’s really a positive step in the right direction.”

Few and the Zags were upset last March by the University of San Diego, which contributed to a two-game, season-ending losing streak when the Zags fell in the last moments to a Stephen Curry-led Davidson team in the NCAA first round. Played in Raleigh, N.C., that was pretty much a home game for Davidson, too, but there’s not much Few could do about that.

More under his control is the exceptional defensive effort of this 14th-ranked Zags team (24-5), which is rated among the most difficult to score against in the nation. With big guards and long-armed players all over the floor, Gonzaga averages seven steals and five blocked shots a game.

“We need to just kind of continue to make it really hard for people to score on us, not give them easy baskets,” Few said of his team’s tournament approach.

Sporting News (http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/kobrien3/186123/)

4 things to watch for in Vegas for the Zags

4. Jeremy Pargo's performance

--No player on the Zags roster has as much to gain or as much to lose than Pargo. After winning WCC Player of the Year honors in 2007-2008, Pargo has dropped off considerably in his points and assists totals. Furthermore, his struggles in big games have also hurt his status in the NBA draft, which he bypassed last year thinking that another year would help his stock. Unfortunately, this regular season has had an opposite effect, for he is a borderline second round pick in comparison to last year where he was a borderline 1st rounder. That being said, if Pargo can explode in the WCC tournament and garner any kind of honors, he may salvage his declining status and gain some much needed momentum for the NCAA Tournament and NBA draft in the summer.

3. The neutral court in Vegas

--For the longest while the WCC Tournament was in Santa Clara and the coaches complained about the Broncos home-court advantage. The WCC then decided to rotate the hosting sites to a new college in the conference every year, and coaches still complained about it. Now, in order to give no true home court advantage to any team, the WCC decided to play the tournament in Vegas, where no WCC school sits. Gonzaga has excelled in neutral site games, mainly because they play so many during the season. The question though for this tournament is if Gonzaga can still excel, especially in comparison to other schools who don't play as many neutral court games during the season.

2. The rematch with St. Mary's

--There is a possibility that Gonzaga or St. Mary's won't play each other in the championship game. Yet let's be honest, everybody is expecting them to face off for a third time. The third matchup will feature the return of guard Patty Mills and considering how he torched Gonzaga for a half in their first matchup in Spokane, every Bulldog fans is dreading the anticipated matchup. The question now is not only if Gonzaga can adjust their gameplan for Mills' return, but if they can handle the other Gales on the squad who have improved considerably with each game in Mills' absence.

1. Avenging the 2008 loss to San Diego

--They won't play San Diego, but the Zags have a huge chip on their shoulder after losing in the WCC Championship game. The loss eventually gave the Zags a horrible matchup which featured them playing against a hot Davidson team in North Carolina. If the Zags win the WCC Tournament, they get a better seed and perhaps a better shot of making the second round. The Zags could be in that situation this year. If they lose in the WCC tournament, they could be looking at a 7 or even an 8 seed. Win and they're looking at a 5 or 6. The Zags also look to play for more than just seeding. In Few's tenure they have only lost the WCC Tournament title game twice, both to San Diego. The Bulldogs don't lose this tournament and they are determined to show why this year, regardless of St. Mary's desperation.Photo and full story in Sporting News here (http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/kobrien3/186123/).

John Blanchette (http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/mar/08/viva-this-neutral-site-in-the-desert/) outdoes himself today ...

LAS VEGAS – Wrong city, we know, but there is something about the West Coast Conference basketball tournament being here that gives off a strong “Sister Act” vibe.

You just keep expecting Sister Mary Clarence and a murmuration of nuns to come sweeping through the casino at the Orleans and into the adjacent basketball arena, possibly to throw a little soul into the national anthem.

We have had a whole year to get used to the idea of the WCC convening its bingo game just off the Strip, and while there is an undeniable inspiration to it all it still feels a little like the College of Cardinals meeting in Monte Carlo to fill a vacancy in the Holy See.

Yes, yes, it’s basketball and not High Mass. Nonetheless, there is no other Division I basketball collective in all of the NCAA of an all-religious stripe, and here it is playing its tournament just down the hall from the slots and roulette wheel – never mind in a neighborhood of prospering adult entertainment emporia.

What’s next? The Nike swoosh on a clerical collar?

We kid. Gestures both bold and bizarre are to be applauded in the heretofore plodding history of the WCC, though you wouldn’t think the notion of a neutral site for the tournament would qualify as either.

Now, there’s a decent chance that more than half of all those tickets were peddled to Gonzaga’s traveling circus, but spirited knots of even the WCC’s bottom feeders have been spotted here – and that hasn’t always been the case.

In any event, this isn’t just another convention of Shriners or farm implement dealers, and what was signed as a one-year deal is certain to be extended.

If there is any danger in the WCC stepping so far outside its geographic footprint it doesn’t seem to speak to the league’s greatest need – the rest of the membership to hoist itself up closer to Gonzaga’s level.

With the arguable exception of the Zags’ most recent challenger, Saint Mary’s, the seven dwarfs of the WCC are pretty much afterthoughts in their own communities – mostly because they’re not communities but major urban markets. Taking the league’s showcase event to this desert Gomorrah does not do much for programs desperate for higher profiles at home – but then, the WCC tried that and it never really worked. Somehow the USFs and Santa Claras and San Diegos will have to carve out bigger audiences on their own – and campus commitment, more aggressive scheduling and steady success seem like the best places to start.

The best marketing strategy the WCC can concoct is getting more than one team into the NCAA tournament, on a regular basis. That lesson was delivered last year when USD and Saint Mary’s joined Gonzaga in the bracket and became a national story. The Zags had been one before, and LMU as a supernova in Hank Gathers’ era, but never the league as such.

This honeymoon in Vegas holds no particular promise of making that happen every year, but it’s still the best – and most bizarre – bit of inspiration in the league’s basketball history. Bar nun."Murmuration? Murmuration?" Is he talking about a flock of starlings? Or the process by which the Jesuits choose a Superior General, the "murmuratio (http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&id=42B52362-3048-887F-8F25512381F4697D)?"

Is that guy spooky smart, or what?

03-08-2009, 04:36 PM
Jerry Palm on CBS Sportsline's projections (http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/story/11233762) still has the Zags as a 4 seed in Boise, with St. Mary's among the last four in and this comment about St. Mary's:

St. Mary's (Calif.) has a huge game Sunday night against Portland in the West Coast Conference semifinals. Obviously, the Gaels need a win, but almost as important is the performance of Patrick Mills, who returns to action. It's one thing for doctors to say you can play. It's another to actually show you can play. A healthy and effective Mills could push Saint Mary's into the bracket, even with a loss to Gonzaga.

The Gaels also did something you don't see every year. They added another game to the schedule this week. They were one short of the maximum, and coach Randy Bennett thought it would be a good idea for Mills to get another game under his belt before the postseason. So they will host Eastern Washington this week. The Eagles did not qualify for the Big Sky tournament, so they have an opening on their schedule as well.

This is one of those high-risk, no reward games for St. Mary's. It is not possible to exceed expectations, so there's nowhere to go but down. An ugly win, or God forbid, a loss, could damage their chances of being selected as an at-large, if needed. Also, someone could get hurt.

Oregon Zag
03-08-2009, 04:52 PM
Good finds, ZN, as usual. Thanks!

03-08-2009, 04:54 PM
boling writes: << The third matchup will feature the return of guard Patty Mills and considering how he torched Gonzaga for a half in their first matchup in Spokane, every Bulldog fans is dreading the anticipated matchup. The question now is not only if Gonzaga can adjust their gameplan for Mills' return, but if they can handle the other Gales on the squad who have improved considerably with each game in Mills' absence. >>

Every bulldog fan I know wanted to see Mills back for the second half defensive adjustment that we needed to make and believe we would have made. It never came. We, too, want a rematch.

and re: bolling's last sentence.

It's as if our game and athletes have been frozen in space and time since Mills' departure. au contraire. au contraire.

Neither has Portland's game stood still. I doubt the Pilots will just let smc roll over them, either.

Go Zags !

03-08-2009, 05:35 PM
Sporting news blogger writes: (http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/kobrien3/186123/)

The third matchup will feature the return of guard Patty Mills and considering how he torched Gonzaga for a half in their first matchup in Spokane, every Bulldog fans is dreading the anticipated matchup.

Uh, no. Patty Mills' first-half performance against the Zags may as well take its place alongside Babe the Blue Ox and the Northwest Passage as the greatest regional myths ever told. For god sakes he hit a bunch of threes and had his team up at halftime. Big deal. I cannot wait for America's team to face Australia's team and put to rest this preposterous legend. Patty is mortal.

03-08-2009, 05:51 PM
I'd just like to see the Zags win tonight against Santa Clara (who almost always plays GU tough) before worrying about anything else.