“We never, ever had to work as hard as we did this year.”
Longtime Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few, answering a question asked by John Buccigross on ESPN’s SportsCenter minutes after the Bulldogs clinched their 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in Las Vegas
61 percent shooting and forcing turnovers–that usually is an excellent recipe for success. For 17 straight years, Mark Few has done what few coaches in any sport, college or professional have accomplished in getting his team to the pinnacle of college basketball. At least, Gonzaga won’t have to sweat for the first time since that Veteran’s Day rainout half a world away in Japan, because they not only beat St. Mary’s at their own game–they pounded them to the tune of an 85-75 victory that truly was indeed a total team effort. The Bulldogs nailed 18 of 26 shots in the first half and mostly coasted from there.
Gonzaga was led in scoring by Eric McClellan’s 20 points, while Kyle Wiltjer chipped in with 17, Jose Perkins added 16 points and Domanta Sabonis (son of the Basketball Hall of Famer and 1992 Olympic bronze medalist Ardanyis Sabonis) played another solid game with 15 points.
For St. Mary’s, these next five days are going to be very agonizing and nerve-racking. They could easily point to that non-conference schedule as a simple reason where I firmly believe they will be one of the first four teams not to earn an invite to the Big Dance. However, expect the Gaels to probably have one of the four top seeds entering the NIT when that draw is released on ESPNU later on Sunday night.
Emmett Naar had game high scoring honors with 25 points, while Joe Rahon managed to get 16 in a losing cause.
Meet the newest version of Dunk City
Wisconsin-Green Bay has not appeared in the Big Dance since 1996, and after they knocked Valparaiso senseless Monday night in overtime–Charles Cooper punctuated things with two thunderous dunks.
The Phoenix ran off to a double digit lead in the first half and never let Wright State into the game, winning the Horizon League going away by a final score of 78-69. First year Linc Darner may not be a Jerry Tarkanian prodigy, but his run and gun style has sent the rest of the country on notice–UWGB is here to play. Jordan Fouse again led the team in scoring with 16 as all five starters finished in double figures.
In the Northeast Conference, Fairleigh Dickinson is back for the first time since 2005 after disposing Wagner on their home floor 87-79. The Knights managed to get huge efforts from Darian Anderson, who led the charge by scoring 28 points while Earl Potts Jr. was close behind with 27 of his own.
Rubber match in South Dakota, as home state prevails once again
The Summit League title game featured the same two schools that went dancing for the last four years: South Dakota State did it in 2012 and 2013, and North Dakota State was looking for a three-peat of their own. The Bison trailed by one at 30-29 entering the half, but the second half was all Jackrabbits. Freshman forward Mike Daum led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Deondre Parks chipped in with 14 points. The Bison were led by Carlin Dupree, who held game high scoring honors with 19 points.
Very hectic Wednesday for hoops fans
Only one automatic bid will be decided on Wednesday night, as the nine seed of Holy Cross looks to recapture some past glories as they play the second seed of Lehigh. The game airs at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on the CBS Sports Network.
Seven other conference tournaments begin also on Wednesday:
Atlantic 10 in Brooklyn (final game Sunday on CBS), Big East in New York (all games on FS1 with the championship game Saturday night on Fox), Big Ten in Indianapolis, Big 12 in Kansas City, Mountain West and Pac-12 both in Las Vegas, and the SEC also begins for those fans who have the SEC Network can see those early round games.
Rather than give each of those schedules since there will be so many games to keep track of, I will instead give my final edition of “Under The Microscope” for the 2015-2016 season. I will also have a brief final thought on “Stock Up/Stock Down” and there might be a few surprises in both groups. Just stick around tomorrow and find it for yourself. Please have a good night.