Gonzaga’s tournament path a very difficult one

  • By Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press
  • Wednesday, March 17, 2010 11:19pm
  • SportsSports

SPOKANE — Gonzaga’s 12th straight trip to the NCAA tournament is shaping up as one of its toughest.

The Zags (26-6) got a No. 8 seed and were shipped to Buffalo, N.Y., to play ninth-seeded Florida State (22-9). If they win, their likely opponent is top-seeded Syracuse, which opens against 16th seed Vermont.

While some might argue Gonzaga’s seed was lower than it should have been, leading scorer Matt Bouldin has no problem with it. This season was a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs.

“That’s why this team has been the most fun I’ve had in these four years at Gonzaga,” said Bouldin, the lone returning starter from the Sweet 16 team the year before. “Our mindset going into these games is, no fear. We have kind of a tougher, grittier mindset than in years past.”

Gonzaga coach Mark Few is proud that his team, which began the season with 10 players who had never played Division I basketball, qualified for the tournament. He doesn’t care who or where they play.

“That pride is the overwhelming feeling,” said Few, the National Association of Basketball Coaches District 9 Coach of the Year. “We’ve had some good seeds and some bad seeds. I don’t think it’s worth getting into and wasting brain matter on, really.”

Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference regular season title, but lost to Saint Mary’s in the tournament final. That cost the Bulldogs a chance to open the tournament in the Spokane subregional. Still, Gonzaga is making its 12th consecutive trip to the NCAAs, and the 13th in program history. The 12 straight trips are tied with Texas and Wisconsin for the third-longest current streak, after Kansas (21), Duke (15) and Michigan State (13).

Friday’s game with Florida State will be the first time the Zags have played the Seminoles, who received an at-large bid and are making their 12th tournament appearance after losing in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.

Florida State features one of the nation’s best defenses, holding opponents to 37 percent shooting, and likes to keep games in the 50s. Gonzaga scored fewer than 60 points only once, a 76-41 loss to Duke.

“They do an amazing job of contesting every shot,” Few said.

Few, in his 11th year, needs one victory to move past Hank Anderson for most wins at Gonzaga. Both have 290 wins. Few’s .801 winning percentage is the highest of any active coach with at least five seasons.

The Zags last played in Buffalo in the 1993-94 season, when they lost to Canisius and Niagara on consecutive nights at the Canisius Classic. Few was a young assistant to coach Dan Fitzgerald on that team.

“I have a great recollection of that trip,” Few said. “It was not a stellar (trip) for the Zags.” That team went on to finish 22-8 and won the first West Coast Conference regular-season title in school history.

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