Sunday, November 27, 2022

Can Gonzaga win it all? It’s time for the annual question.

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They lack the nationwide title even after two latest runs to the closing Monday, in 2017 and 2021, and two latest runs to the last eight, in 2015 and 2019, in order that’s the factor now, as a result of that’s how it works in a tradition that prizes three weeks in early spring over 4 months of onerous winter. Even the mad individuals who dwell inside the recreation, equivalent to coaches, typically give it away when warbling about their nationwide championships above their different groups that may have been superior besides that the imply previous wheel chucked them from the fray a technique or one other.

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In this example, a coach equivalent to Mark Few would possibly attain for two truths and commit one delicate foible after profitable one more West Coast Conference Tournament — it’s someplace round 18 now; yeah, 18 — as Gonzaga did by 82-69 in a wonderful struggle Tuesday evening with Madness-bound Saint Mary’s.

Truth No. 1: It’s onerous to get these seedings.

At least twice on Tuesday evening, he combed by these No. 1 seedings — “So that’s ’17, ’19, ’20, ’21 and ’22,” he stated — a fact even given the grim cancellation of ‘20.

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“Everybody focuses on the NCAA tournament,” he stated precisely, “but remember, to be a number-one seed, that’s a reward for four months of going out, and especially the way we schedule, playing the best of the best, and then battling everybody in our conference that gives you their best effort, their crowds’ best effort of the year when they play us, when everybody’s looking to knock us off and storm the floor.”

For these non-freaks, that’s 26-3 this yr, with wins over Texas, UCLA, Texas Tech and that admirable Bellarmine, the losses to Duke (by 84-81), Alabama (by 91-82) and Saint Mary’s (by 67-57), all including as much as an total seeding set to be No. 1.

And he would possibly go for the previous fresh-puzzle angle, additionally a fact. Every yr actually is a contemporary puzzle.

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“I think one of the biggest overlooked things this whole season, being ranked number one this preseason, was how much we lost,” Few stated. “I mean, we lost three guys to the NBA,” and by that he meant Jalen Suggs picked fifth to Orlando, Corey Kispert fifteenth to Washington and Joel Ayayi to a seven-game stopover in Washington. “And you looked out when we started practice in the fall. Obviously Chet (Holmgren, the 7-foot freshman ranked No. 1 among 2021 recruits) gets a lot of attention, but he’s new. He’s a freshman. He’s new to our program. Rasir’s (Bolton) new to our program. Hunter’s (Sallis) new to our program. Nolan’s (Hickman) new to our program.”

Other kingpins have years when all that newness doesn’t work, when it one way or the other spills throughout the chemistry lab. Gonzaga doesn’t.

But then, a coach who hasn’t missed the Sweet 16 since 2014 would possibly lapse into discovering the Sweet 16 regular. From the trophy dais amid Orleans Arena, with the Gonzaga throng roaring from the stands like regular days, Few stated into the microphone, “It’s incredible how our fans travel. There’s nobody that travels like this on the West Coast.”

Then he gave these followers additional geographical encouragement for the NCAA event by saying, “And we’re going to Portland, we’re going to San Francisco.”

That would possibly perk the ears of any coach of a No. 8 or No. 9 seed that will get stationed on a bracket reverse Gonzaga in Portland (first two rounds), striving to get to San Francisco (Sweet 16 and Elite Eight).

His staff had simply exhibited why such speak appears acceptable, by weathering San Francisco (24-9) and Saint Mary’s (25-7), two tournament-bound groups in a league risen to fight near-eternal derision pushed partly by everlasting Eastern bias. When inconvenienced towards Saint Mary’s, a 12-point lead pared to 2 with 7:20 left and Holmgren seated with 4 fouls, Gonzaga had different shiny guys.

Guards Andrew Nembhard, the mainstay from that risen basketball supply everybody calls Canada, and Bolton, from Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia after which Penn State after which Iowa State, led it by the mire and above the muck. Then Nembhard talked like Gonzagans speak, talking of “trying to read the game,” and “keeping my head down,” and, “I love making plays for this team,” and, after the Most Outstanding Player award, “I’m not big on getting recognition, it’s nice to get recognition every so often.”

Such sentiments ring true by the basketball, typically brisk and exquisite and liable to having the ball transfer round the court docket, and by the tenor, as with mustachioed face-of-program Drew Timme giving his teammates standing-Os from the bench in closing minutes whereas Gonzaga protected a lead.

Then they stayed round for a trophy presentation as they do as a part of nationwide habits. For 24 years, they’ve appeared earlier than the nation in a minimum of 5 iterations. They had the the place’s-that darling section round the flip over the century, the section of restricted seeding respect in the early century, the section of upper seedings however round-of-32 exits up till 2014, the section of nice gamers inbound from throughout the planet like some kingdom with Final Fours not even darling, and now the section of Best Program Lacking A You-know-what.

It’s essential to search out happiness in what others discover clockwork.

“Yeah, hey, I’m really happy, really happy,” Few stated. “You know, when you see the players at the end of this thing out there on the floor. You see them there with their families. You know what was said during the recruiting process. And I know I speak for our staff, we just feel good on delivering what we talked about this experience being for their sons.”

That did sound real, amid a mad nation inside a mad month with yet one more query from the harrumphing dialect of sports activities: You gonna win that title someday?



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