Gonzaga---Brace yourself. After seeing Gonzaga play twice in person this year and numerous times on TV it could be the year. Mark Few has never had a Gonzaga team in the Final Four, as well as the elite 8, since taking over the Bulldog program in 1999. That could all change this season, the Bulldogs are a loaded program at every position, they play great defense and boy, can they shoot the 3 ball. Not to forget, it does matter what type of game, uptempo or slowdown, they can win.
Chances are Gonzaga might lose, even more than once before the regular season is done. But what happens in March and April at this point is really what counts. For my money, this is Mark Few's best team ever at Gonzaga and he has had some good ones, who have often underachieved in postseason play. When Few is interviewed, as we did last night for CSNNW.com, he will not say that this is his best team, but the look on his face and his demeanor, indicates he just might think so.
As I watched Gonzaga on Thursday night take care of business against Portland, there is another thing about this team that I really like. They seem to be more business oriented than some Gonzaga teams of the past. The swagger in gone, the details are back. Swagger in sports often does not cut it, all business does. Just ask the San Francisco Giants, New England Patriots and Miami Heat, who are all business and no swagger, while being highly successful franchises.
I often say time will tell, but in this case the time is right for Gonzaga to reach the Final Four. As a matter of fact, I am going to come right out and say, they will be at the Final Four and this time, not as a spectator. And if it happens, good for them.
Wolf's World---Another great answer, from an a reader's outstanding question, by U of Portland assistant basketball coach, Michael Wolf.
"Coach Wolf, love your segments, appreciate the fact CSNNW.com gives you a chance to answer our questions. I have been following the WCC and WCAC for years, as long as Crawford and do you agree, the schedule is just plain over the top for all teams this year. It is really hard to keep track of when everyone is playing, let alone the craziness?" Pierre (I never miss a game or pasta buffet) from Laurelhurst area of Portland, Oregon
"Pierre, thanks for the scheduling question. I think the hardest thing to comprehend about the WCC schedule in the modern age is that much of it is now out of control of the conference and none of it is in control of the schools for the most part. The tradeoff is the unbelievable exposure the conference gets through the television partners, Comcast SportsNet, ESPN, Fox Sports and Time Warner. Along with the WCC media platform-online, there is no other non BCS conference in the country with that type of media exposure and coverage.
Because of those partnerships ESPN has a big stake in the schedule at the outset of the season. They make requests for games they would like on TV, between teams at certain times of the year. Each league team is guaranteed an appearance on ESPN2 and ESPNU once during the conference play.
When we first came into the league in 2006 as coaches, it was a Saturday-Monday league. Unfortunately we would get home from a road trip on Tuesday and often have players miss the majority of classes that day. I like the current Thursday-Saturday format better as Friday is not usually a heavy day of classes. Much better for our student-athletes.
The biggest challenge these last two years has been the unbalanced schedule since BYU joined the league. Previously with eight teams, we had a clean, balanced schedule with clear travel partners across the league by geography. Next season, as Pacific joins the league to give the WCC 10 teams, it should make for a cleaner format with everyone playing on the same schedule, with travel partners.
Having scheduled camps and tournaments for 300+ teams in my time. I realize there are a lot of ways to slice this process, but ultimately the WCC has done a great job of managing the needs and expectations of its teams and schools. First, the student-athletes and their academic demands. Second, our TV partners who have been critical in raising the profile of the league over the last 10 years and finally, you the fans who want to see great basketball. You can't please everyone in every situation, but with equity and common sense guiding the process, the league has done a fine job in my opinion and trust me, I am glad they are doing it so I can focus on beating St. Mary's tomorrow."---See you at Chiles Center, Michael Wolf.
Portland Pilots---For those people that really get to know me, there is a common theme. They all tell me, I am way too nice. I hope that problem continues the rest of my life actually. But today, on a rare occasion, I am not going to be so nice. Last night as I watched University of Portland play, in my favorite arena to watch college basketball on the west coast, I thought long and hard about this. The two centers on the University of Portland, Riley Barker and Thomas van der Mars, both close to 7-feet tall, are at least this year digressing and at times, playing pathetic basketball.
Before you say I am too harsh on these fine young men and they are fine human beings, I must remind you, getting a free education from one of the most prestigious private universities in the world, getting to eat primo food each day and getting excellent medical care when needed, is not afforded everyone, so do not feel bad about my criticism.
And I might also add, these two players have really good coaches and a head coach that is famous for teaching big men. But at some point both van der Mars and Barker need to take it upon themselves to step up. Not only for the rest of the year, but they have to be big time players if the Pilots are to have success in the next couple of years. Their play overall is not good and seems to be going in reverse gear.
Example: In Thursday night's game against Gonzaga, when they were really needed to step up, they vanished into the heavy Portland fog. Barker in 23 minutes had one rebound and two points. van der Mars, in 19 minutes one rebound and ZERO points. Ladies and gentlemen, these are your two starting centers for now and the future, in the West Coast Conference, not the Washington Generals.
Guys, I am pulling for you, I am sure you work hard, so work even harder. Not only are your teammates counting on you, but also your fans and even a guy named Crawford. Stop this nonsense play and get going.
Talkin Ducks---Thanks for all the great comments from viewers of Talkin Ducks. Richard, Jordan and I really appreciate the fact you watch and like the show and don't miss Tuesday night, we will have some surprises for you on Comcast SportsNet.