Gonzaga relishes uncommon under-the-radar position on this match

DENVER — It’s been many years since Gonzaga was something however a basketball powerhouse.

And the Bulldogs definitely flexed their collective muscle tissue Friday night time in Ball Arena with a get-loose, we’re prepared 82-70 win over Grand Canyon University in a West regional first-round recreation.

The Bulldogs rolled into this 12 months’s match as a No. 3 seed within the West Region, the third time they have been a No. 3 since their annual match campout began in 1999. That 1999 workforce launched a nation to Gonzaga basketball, making a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed throughout its first match look. The Bulldogs have been to each match since, reaching 12 Sweet 16s and twice reaching the nationwide championship recreation. It’s a testomony to what the Bulldogs have achieved that this 12 months’s No. 3 seed has had a much less strain theme round it.

Especially for a workforce that was a No. 1 seed in every of its earlier three match journeys, together with a title recreation loss to Baylor within the 2021 match.

“I would just say from the pressure level aspect, I would say it takes something off of us not really being a No. 1 seed,” guard Rasir Bolton mentioned this week. “And then anything else is really the same. It’s all the same game of basketball … anybody can lose any day. So I don’t think anything changes. I think we have the same mindset.”

Under coach Mark Few’s watch, Gonzaga has been a No. 1 seed extra usually — 5 occasions — than they’ve been the rest. But not holding prime line standing has not modified something for the Zags.

“I think the seeding is more for everybody dinking around with the brackets and all that,” mentioned Few, who has been the pinnacle coach on the college for each match besides its first one. “The players and the staffs, it just becomes more of here’s our task, these guys do this and this and this really good. And if we don’t do something about it, then they can beat us.

“I’d simply say so long as I’ve been on this factor now, yearly, the whole lot appears to be shrinking extra to the imply versus — we have been in sufficient of these 1-16 video games and you are like, holy smokes. Last 12 months I walked out for the tip and Georgia State, I believe they have been greater than us at dang close to each place. And I’m like, it is a 16 seed?”

Gonzaga “fell” to a No. 3 in this tournament courtesy of an early-season gauntlet that included losses to Texas (a No. 2 seed), Purdue (a No. 1 seed) and Baylor (a No. 3 seed). Toss in the Dec. 14 loss to Loyola Marymount, a defeat that ended its 75-game home winning streak, and Gonzaga is ever-so-slightly under the radar this time around.

The Bulldogs trace the guts of their now 10-game winning streak to that loss to LMU and a callous or two they built in those early losses to the other heavyweights.

“They have been feeling the frustration, I believe, early and beating themselves up fairly good mentally, and in order that was a giant problem for our employees,” Few said. “Then I all the time say you have to hit the Zags’ normal, and so they weren’t hitting the Zags’ normal in plenty of areas. So I all the time really feel that is my job to type of be the heavy in that regard. Sometimes it is not all enjoyable and video games being the papa bear of the group.”

Few said the players also did not listen to “Jimmy and Johnny behind the keyboard of their mother’s basement” along the way.

Friday evening, they looked comfortable in their current status as All-American Drew Timme, now the school’s all-time leading scorer, efficiently scored 21 points. Timme had been held to six points in the first half when Grand Canyon had built a seven-point lead with just under six minutes before halftime. But from that moment on, Gonzaga found its comfort level, including a 20-6 run to open the second half.

“It’s a giant, excessive strain occasion, and I felt like on the entire we have been a bit nervous, which is human nature,” Timme said. “And then the second half we calmed down, recollected ourselves. We’re Gonzaga.”

Timme, a rare high-end senior in the basketball landscape, gives Gonzaga a comfort level if things get difficult. Bolton said this team learned to “blindly simply play” along the way as well.

“Not actually specializing in rankings or something anymore, not being No. 1, or not worrying about any extra data,” Bolton said. “Just actually come collectively and having to win video games, and I believe that helped us rather a lot.”