Gonzaga Mens Basketball
Gonzaga - Is This The Year?
The Gonzaga Bulldogs dominated the West Coast Conference this season, going 14-0 in the league. Overall, they were 27-3 with their three defeats coming at the hands of out of conference teams, including an early season 2-point loss to the Connecticut Huskies. UConn presently tops three out of four major polls and Gonzaga ranks in the top ten of each. The Zags’ last loss came when Memphis beat them by 11 points on December 27, 2005. Since that time, they’ve knocked off 18 in a row.
So with tournament time at hand, the Bulldogs look poised to go deep into the playoffs. Junior Adam Morrison, who will probably turn pro after the post-season, is one of the top two players in the country, only rivaled by Duke’s J.J. Redick. Morrison, whose strengths include his sweet shot and cool on-court leadership, averaged 28.4 PPG and was second in rebounds on the team with 5.5. It was no surprise to anyone when this “player’s player” was chosen First Team All-American this year.
J.P. Batista, a senior forward/center, is another solid force on the court, leading the inside game with 9.5 rebounds and 19.3 points per game. Batista is considered to be in the top ten of college players, and although he was injured in the semi-final playoff game against San Diego, he came back strong in the final to record a double-double with 10 rebounds and 13 points. He’s nursing a mild knee strain and deep thigh bruise but has a over a week to heal, which means he’ll be ready to go when March 16th rolls around.
Guards Derek Ralvio, a junior, and Pierre Altidor-Cespedes, a sophomore, bring playoff experience and solid skills to the court. Ralvio led the team at the foul line, hitting 92.4% of the time this year. His precision from the penalty stripe can be a factor in the national tournament, which tends to be tightly called by officials. Junior forward Sean Mallon rounds out the starters, offering reliable points and rebounds—6.9 and 4.5 respectively.
Coach Mark Few has led the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in each of his seven years at the helm. Although this team struggled in their conference tournament, the ability to beat San Diego in OT and to down Loyola-Marymount in the dwindling seconds of the final match reveals the character of this team. All season they’ve fought hard and stayed in the game, often winning by secure margins but rarely blowing out opponents.
Gonzaga enters March Madness with seasoned starters, a cagy coach, and a dependable bench, which includes David Pendergraft, Jeremy Pargo, and Larry Gurganious. All three of these subs have seen minutes in every game this season.
The loss to Duke was a long time ago and a close one. In their league tournament, Gonzaga revealed that it can certainly play under pressure. Mark Few has players that are motivated, mature and hungry for the National Title. With one of the best players in college hoop and a thoroughly solid team, the Bulldogs stand the best chance they’ve had in the last seven years to be still playing basketball on April 3rd in the final match-up.
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