Feeling sympathy for `little' Gonzaga no longer so easy

Sneaking up on teams thing of past for No. 13


January 18, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Gonzaga will have to choose a different kind of foot apparel this season, because the Bulldogs won't qualify for a glass slipper come March.

A Cinderella team that reached the Elite Eight as a No. 12 seed in 1999 and the Sweet 16 as a No. 10 the previous two seasons, Gonzaga is currently ranked 13th in the country, its highest-ever regular-season ranking.

"Based on what we've done in the NCAA tournament the past few years and what we've done this year, it would be a joke to be a Cinderella team or a bracket-buster," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said earlier this week.

With a 15-2 record and a 12-game winning streak going into tonight's game against Pepperdine, the Bulldogs have a chance to run the table in the West Coast Conference.

Gonzaga already has wins this season over Texas and St. John's in the Great Alaska Shootout, and won two difficult road games, beating New Mexico at The Pit and ending a 14-game home winning streak for St. Joseph's.

"They're legit," said Longhorns coach Rick Barnes. "I don't look at it at the level of conference they're in. I look at it as the level of players they have. Their players can play with anybody in the country."

Every time the Bulldogs lose coaches and players, the skeptics wonder if the program will sustain its level of success.

When Dan Monson left for Minnesota three years ago, few outside the Spokane, Wash., school had heard of Few, who had been there as an assistant for a decade.

When Gary Santangelo graduated two years ago, few out of those in the WCC had heard of Casey Calvary. Or Dan Dickau. Calvary and Dickau led the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 last season before running into Michigan State.

With Calvary having graduated, it's Dickau, 6 feet, who is leading this year's team. But the Bulldogs didn't get much publicity coming into the season because his supporting cast wasn't expected to be as good as in past years.

"Secretly, we knew we could be pretty good," said Few.

If anything, the loss of Calvary, last season's WCC Player of the Year, and Mark Spink, its Defensive Player of the Year, has given an opportunity to junior Zack Gourde, sophomore Corey Violette and freshman Ronny Turiaf.

"They're bigger, stronger and deeper than they've been," said Barnes.

And here's something else to consider: Few signed Sean Mallon, a Top 50 player that all the Pac-10 schools were interested in. Mallon is also the first big-time player successfully recruited out of Spokane that Gonzaga has signed since that skinny Stockton kid.

The Bulldogs have almost become college basketball's cult team. Everybody wants the 'Zags. They'll play in the Maui Invitational next season, and the folks at Madison Square Garden want Gonzaga for their ECAC Holiday Festival. The best way to sell out for a nonconference game is to bring in the Bulldogs.

Sooner than later

Out in Lawrence, Kan., last night's Duke-Maryland game was merely a prelude to tomorrow's matchup between No. 4 Kansas and No. 5 Oklahoma at fabled Phog Allen Fieldhouse. This one will also have national-championship implications because it will give the winner the early foothold on the No. 1 seed in the Midwest.

It was apparent during Tuesday's 79-61 victory over No. 6 Oklahoma State in Stillwater that the Jayhawks were back on their game after losing at UCLA as the No. 1 team in the country.

"UCLA gave us a reality check," said junior forward Drew Gooden, who scored 13 of his 17 points in a 22-4 run that opened the game against the Cowboys.

You couldn't tell if Kansas coach Roy Williams was pleased with his team's performance or not. Late in the Oklahoma State game, Williams removed his suit jacket rather forcefully. But instead of throwing it in the stands, as he did once last year, he folded it and placed it on a chair.,

"He was pretty upset," said freshman forward Wayne Simien. "I was waiting for the coat toss, but we didn't see it."

A man named Brady

They will talk about this one for a while at LSU, and not for all the right reasons. After getting ejected because of back-to-back technicals early in the second half in Wednesday's game at Florida, Tigers coach John Brady took a walk.

"No, I didn't watch the game," said Brady, who was thrown out of his team's 102-70 loss to the No. 2 Gators with 17:22 left in the second half and LSU trailing by 20. "In fact, I'll tell you what I actually did. I walked outside and walked around the campus. It's a pretty campus. It's a little chilly outside, though."

Planting seeds

From now until the NCAA tournament, The Sun will run its weekly seedings for the top four teams from each regional. The seedings will be made before Thursday night's games.


1. Duke....................1. Florida

2. Texas...................2. Syracuse

3. Connecticut........3. Missouri

4. Kentucky.............4. Illinois


1. Maryland............1. Kansas

2. Oklahoma...........2. Cincinnati

3. Gonzaga.............3. Indiana

4. USC......................4. Oregon

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