#rushthetrip Day Nine: The Gonzaga Machine Keeps On Rolling

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 16th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

Gonzaga has long held a niche all their own in college basketball. Sure, other “mid-majors” have found national relevance since Casey Calvary, Richie Frahm and the Zags rose to prominence in the late 90’s, but none of those programs have been able to match Gonzaga when it comes to year-in, year-out consistency. The Bulldogs may still be seeking the Final Four run that would put an exclamation point on the era, but their run of WCC regular season dominance — titles in 12 of the last 13 seasons – demands respect, even if their recent Tournament struggles have many believing the Zags to be overvalued annually. That transformation from underrated to overrated is bound to happen when you make winning look as routine as Mark Few and the gang have over the years, especially when new seasons provide little in the way of statement opportunities. The arrival of the Pepperdine Waves on Thursday night was surely not one of those rare chances for a Zag proclamation, but I was just excited to get a look at The Kennel, no matter the opponent.

The McCarthey Athletics Center Atmosphere Is Intimate, Enlivened, And As Good As It Gets In College Basketball

The McCarthey Athletics Center Atmosphere Is Intimate, Enlivened, And As Good As It Gets In College Basketball

Admittedly, I have only watched 40 minutes of basketball in my entire life at the McCarthey Athletic Center, but it was easy to get the impression that the arena atmosphere is as consistent as the program it propels. The student section, cloaked in red, was full well before tipoff, and their energetic pregame rendition of “Zombie Nation” had me double-checking my program to make sure Pepperdine really had only won 14 games. The rest of the McCarthey Center was slightly more restrained than their younger cohorts, but not for any lack of caring. If you are not fortunate enough to be a Gonzaga season ticket-holder, you are likely not fortunate enough to attend a Gonzaga home game. As of 48 hours before tipoff, there were only two tickets available anywhere on the internet (and they predictably ran a pretty penny). There are more expensive, “exclusive” college basketball tickets out there, but almost never will you find a game with such a dearth of ticket listings. Even the biggest games at Cameron Indoor, Phog Allen Fieldhouse, or Rupp Arena will have more than two tickets available for those whom cost is no object. But up in Spokane, good luck to any outsider trying to find their way into the McCarthey Center, because it is very much a Zag-loving coterie that congregates at The Kennel some 15 times a year.

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Five More Additions to ESPN’s College Basketball Bucket List

Posted by BHayes on August 26th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

Last week ESPN released a “college bucket list”: a compilation of must-see stops in the world of college athletics. Naturally, the bulk of the list consisted of requisite college football and basketball experiences. The hoops portion contains visits to a number of storied hardwoods — Cameron Indoor, Allen Fieldhouse, and Rupp Arena, among others. We certainly can’t find any issue with any of ESPN’s 10 listed selections, but to round out the list, we can think of a few more pilgrimages that college basketball fans simply have to make in their lifetimes. Consider these five the appetizers to go along with the entrees that ESPN already listed.

Vegas in March is Like Nothing Else

Vegas in March is Like Nothing Else

Spend the First Weekend Of NCAA Tournament At a Vegas Sports Book (Las Vegas, NV) – It’s a marriage made in heaven: the most exciting, frenzied weekend of American sport paired with a manic city loaded with the most prime of sports viewing stations – a Las Vegas sports book. It may sound strange, but gambling is entirely optional for this Vegas trip. No place better captures the emotional pendulum of the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend than a packed sports book, and every college hoops fan – even those not inclined to wagering money on the games – should take in March’s first dose of Madness from Sin City at least once.

Attend a Game at the Kennel (Spokane, WA) – The Cinderella phenomenon has long been a crucial piece of college basketball lore, and no program is more synonymous with the role than the Gonzaga Bulldogs. As “mid-major” schools like Butler, Creighton, and VCU continue to cultivate programs that look built to last, it’s important to remember that it was the Zags who first drafted the blueprint. They are “America’s Team” to some but Spokane’s team to all, and the rabid support of their school and city has quickly made the Kennel one of the most feared home courts in all the land. Don’t be fooled — if you make the trip out to Eastern Washington you will not find the tradition of a Kentucky or a Kansas waiting there for you. But what you will find is a city, a program, and a team that, in the most populist of senses, embodies what college basketball is all about.

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Morning Five: 11.18.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on November 18th, 2010

  1. Gonzaga may have fallen to an extremely tough San Diego State squad late in the Marathon, but it’s all smiles — or at least sighs of relief, as Jeff Goodman tweets — in Spokane right now. The MRI examining Elias Harris‘ Achilles tendon revealed no tear, but “only” inflammation and bleeding (yow). No telling how long Harris will be out, but a week or two is nothing compared to the 4-6 months of recovery and the ever-lingering question mark that a tear would have entailed.
  2. Speaking of the Aztecs, the San Diego Union-Tribune puts forth the question as to whether or not this is the biggest win in San Diego State’s history. We’ve spoken with numerous fans about this game over the last 24 hours, and, oddly, it still came as a surprise to most of them when we mentioned that the Aztecs prevailed at The Kennel – and therefore before one of the most intimidating crowds in hoopdom — even though that’s the thing that gives this win such bigness. Mark Zeigler’s piece in the U-T makes sure to remind.
  3. We furrowed our brow at the timeout problem that came up at the end of the Southern Illinois vs Northeastern game during the Marathon, and noted our scorn in the live blog. Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy was also displeased, and proposes a completely logical solution to prevent such situations. We’re definitely all for it, as long as it gets rid of those “I’m in a trap, help me” time out requests.
  4. Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post has a reasonable request — a decent basketball team in the state of Colorado. Our favorite line: “If Butler, Gonzaga and the like can create madness in March, surely one Colorado school can do the same. Is that too much to ask?” We think not, though — and no disrespect here to any of the D1 coaches in the Centennial State — guys like Mark Few and Brad Stevens may have had something to do with the success of those programs, and they don’t exactly grow on trees…even ones as nice as those they have out there.
  5. It’s often said that some guys would shoot from the bench. Kyle Singler proves that’s not always a bad thing as part of showing off his repertoire of trick shots. Unlike some of those you see on television, these are all legit. No fancy and deceptive editing, here.  You can’t leave this guy open from anywhere, can you? [Note: one UNC fan here saw the last shot and scoffed, claiming Singler never called "glass."]

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ATB: Northwest Passage

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2007

ATB v.4

12.05.07

Game of the Day. #7 Washington St. 51, #18 Gonzaga 47. How fun would it be to watch a game at the Kennel? It wasn’t too much fun for the Gonzaga fans tonight as they watched their Zags lose for only the second time in that building and in the process, score their lowest total of points in almost eleven years. Although the stats would lead someone to believe that this was an ugly game, we didn’t really see it that way. There were enough bricks on both sides (esp. Gonzaga) to build a smokestack, sure, but the game was intense, defensive-minded and filled with show-stopping plays. For the second time in a week (Baylor), Wazzu went into a veritable lion’s den and slugged its way to a close win. This team is experienced, doesn’t panic and makes smart decisions with the ball – its only real weakness is a style of play that allows teams to stay in the game with them (i.e., Gonzaga shot 26% but was still in the game until the last ten seconds). It didn’t hurt that Kyle Weaver (12/6) seemed to make every big play for the Cougars each time the Zags crept withing striking distance. His airball rebound-turn-putback sequence was sick. On the Gonzaga side, Matt Bouldin (0-9 FG), Jeremy Pargo (3-11) and Austin Daye (1-12) should be ashamed of themselves for their performances at home tonight. We were really high on the Zags early, even going so far as to pick them for the F4, but their inconsistent performances are making us a little wary – still, we’ll wait to pass ultimate judgment until we see how they play once Josh Heytvelt returns.

Other Good Games. Syracuse 70, Virginia 68. Regrettably, we didn’t get to see anything but the last four minutes of this game. This is a very good win for Syracuse, especially in light of its loss at home to UMass last week. From what we can tell, UVa’s Sean Singletary was ill, and it showed in his shooting numbers (10/9/5 assts on 3-14 FG and 2-8 FT) and cramping at the end of the game. Virginia isn’t a one-man team by any stretch (Adrian Joseph had 19/13), but they’re typically not going to beat quality opponents unless SS has a solid game. Tonight was no exception. The Cuse’s Donte Greene (20/10) and Paul Harris (10/14) each had dub-dubs in the road win.

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SEC/Big East Invitational. What a joke this thing is. Hey, here’s an idea, let’s copy the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, except instead of, like, matching up teams based on relative abilities, we’ll just throw a bunch of cannon-fodder SEC teams out there against some good-to-great Big East teams and see how it washes out. Who came up with this plan – the Big East RPI Improvement Committee? Ok, we give them one mulligan. Georgetown v. Alabama was supposed to be a game between two top 25 teams, but then Ronald Steele went and got hurt again. Still, Bama put up a solid fight tonight in Birmingham (#5 Georgetown 70, Alabama 60), which is more than we can say for their mortal enemies over on the Plains. Thuggins and his band of merry men stormed Auburn like Sherman coming back through the South – the Tigers were down 28-6 before they knew what hit them. West Virginia 88, Auburn 59. Now let’s all put our hands together and furiously clap with excitement over tomorrow night’s slate of South Carolina v. Providence and LSU v. Villanova. Anyone got the Big East to go 4-0 in this event? We do.

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Upset of the Day. Charlotte 75, Davidson 68. We love Davidson, but after their recent losses at Eastern Michigan and now at Charlotte, they’re going to need to win the SoCon to make the NCAA Tourney (we’re assuming they will not beat UCLA this weekend). Stephen Curry ripped off 31, but he’s just not getting any offensive help from his frontcourt (7-22 shooting). Charlotte’s Leemire Goldwire sensed a shootout with Curry and ultimately one-upped him with 34 of his own points. Charlotte, with two solid wins in a row, is a team to keep an eye on going forward.

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #4 Kansas 85, E. Washington 47. Too bad Rodney Stuckey is already in the NBA.
  • #8 Texas 88, North Texas 72. The DJ blew up with 29/10, representing our #1 vote well.
  • #17 Pittsburgh 73, Duquesne 68. Pitt really struggled to win this crosstown rivalry game.
  • #18 Clemson 82, East Carolina 67. We’re not voting for you Tigers until you win ACC games.
  • #21 Xavier 79, Creighton 66. Drew Lavender with 28/10 as Creighton takes its first loss.

Other Notable Scores.

  • Florida 91, Florida A&M 52. UF now 4-1 against other Florida teams.
  • Drake 79, Iowa St. 44. Wow, how do you win at Oregon St. then get drilled by Drake?
  • George Mason 57, Hampton 54. Mid-major nirvana in Fairfax.
  • Purdue 70, Ball St. 57. How’s that Ronny Thompson thing working out for Ball St.?
  • W. Kentucky 69, Nebraska 62 (OT). WKU couldn’t afford to drop this BCS win at home.
  • Oklahoma 81, Tulsa 55. OU had a thirty-pt lead at the half.
  • Vanderbilt 83, Wake Forest 80. Vandy remains unbeaten behind Shan Foster’s 26 and Andrew Ogilvy’s 23.
  • Georgia Tech 72, Georgia St. 67. From what little we saw, Ga Tech sleptwalk through this one.

On Tap Today(all times EST). Yeah, a few tv games, but um, good luck with that.

  • Providence (-3.5) v. South Carolina (ESPN2) 7pm – set your alarm for more of the thrilling Big East/SEC Showdown!
  • Connecticut (-17) v. Northeastern (ESPN FC) 7:30pm. ugh.
  • Ill-Chicago (-5.5) v. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (ESPN FC) 8pm - if you’re going to show mid-majors, pick GOOD teams!
  • Villanova (-9.5) v. LSU (ESPN) 9pm – we cannot get over the garbage the SEC trotted out for this event.
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