Know Thy Opponent: Gonzaga Bulldogs
Instead of our usual ‘let’s try to piece together what we know about our opponent writeup’ normally found in this here space, we’ve reached out to The Kennel Report, an unofficial, student run blog about Gonzaga, to get the scoop on IU’s next opponent. Our email exchange begins…Now.
Inside the Hall: One of the fascinating things about Gonzaga is how they’ve been able to keep Mark Few in Spokane despite obvious interest from other programs. Two-part question: 1. How has Gonzaga been able to hold on to Few? and 2. Why has Few resisted the temptation to jump ship? Was he scared off by the Dan Monson epic fail at Minnesota?
The Kennel Report: The decision by Mark Few to remain in Spokane despite overtures from programs like Indiana, Kentucky, and Stanford has been the key to Gonzaga sustaining this great run. Here is a story that took place today that I think might hold the answer to your question. After class this morning, I had some time to kill so I went to the student center on campus. After waiting in line to get something to eat I went and sat on a couch to pass the time before my next class. Sitting directly across from me was none other than Mark Few. He was reading the local newspaper and enjoying a cup of tea. For the 10-15 minutes he was there, nobody bothered him, asked for his autograph, or tried to explain why running a 2-3 defense would help the team. I don’t think the constant questioning and demand for time that the head coach at schools like Indiana or Kentucky has to deal with is appealing to Mark Few in anyway.
As you mentioned, the experience of Dan Monson also has had some sort of impact. I think Few learned that money doesn’t buy happiness or experience. Could he make more money at another school? Of course he could, but the pressure and expectations that he would have to deal with ruins the appeal of more dollar signs.
ITH: The three Zags getting the most attention seem to be Josh Heytvelt, Austin Daye and Micah Downs. Which of these three guys is the most indispensable and why?
TKR: This is a great question, and one that is very difficult to answer. Each one of the guys you mentioned brings so much to the table, and of course Gonzaga also has Jeremy Pargo, who is one of the top PG’s in the country. Of the group you mentioned, Heytvelt would have to be considered the most indispensable. While this team has Ira Brown and Robert Sacre to provide depth in the frontcourt, neither of the two mentioned can take over a game like Josh can. A great example of this is the Maryland game in the Old Spice Classic, when Josh scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds. We have no other player with his size and strength who is capable of dominating a game like that. Austin is certainly one of the more talented scorers in the country, but his game is more perimeter based. When Josh is healthy and focused, he can be one of the top post players in the country.
ITH: Gonzaga was a mid-major before it was cool to be a mid-major. Do those around the program still consider the program as a part of this group or have they moved beyond that status?
TKR: At this point, Gonzaga is a high major program that plays in a mid-major conference. There are two main events that made this transition happen. The first was the building of the McCarthey Athletic Center, which is the home gym for the Zags. The MAC is arguably one of the top five gyms on the West Coast, and also has one of the best game atmospheres of any gym in the country. The building of this gym elevated the type of player Gonzaga could recruit. Having this type of facility has allowed Gonzaga to recruit against some of the top programs in the nation.
The other reason that Gonzaga has been elevated to a high-major program is recruiting. The best example of this would be the class of 2007, which featured Austin Daye, Steven Gray, Rob Sacre, and Ira Brown. Austin was the first five-star recruit to ever sign with Gonzaga out of high school, and Steven and Rob were both consensus top 100 recruits. This class ended up ranked in the top 15 in the country. The class of 2008 also features three top 150 recruits in Meech Goodson, Grant Gibbs, and Andy Poling. These are the type of recruiting classes that high-major programs are able to bring in on a consistent basis.
ITH: Every team has an unsung hero or a player who holds things together. Who’s that guy for the Zags?
TKR: Lets go with Goodson for this one. His stats wont blow away anyone (3.8 pts, 1.8 assists), but his impact in the game is noticeable. Last season, when Jeremy Pargo would go to the bench, the team would fall apart. With Meech available this season, the team doesn’t miss a step when Pargo goes to the bench. Meech also brings tremendous toughness to a program that has been categorized as “soft” and “finesse”. Meech’s brother is Mike Goodson, who plays football at Texas A&M, and Meech brings that football toughness to the basketball court. He has really proven to be the type of player who can change the perception of the Gonzaga program.
ITH: Finish these two sentences. A successful season for Gonzaga would be…
TKR: A National Championship. Besides North Carolina, we really believe that we have the top team in the country. In terms of depth, athleticism, and talent, Gonzaga matches up the best with North Carolina.
ITH: A disappointing season for Gonzaga would be…
TKR: Anything short of the Final Four. This team has been building for the past two seasons for this year. With Pargo returning for his senior season, and Heytvelt being fully healthy, this has to be the season for Gonzaga to break through and make the Final Four.