Zags open Orlando tournament against Quinnipiac
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – Gonzaga’s schedule, according to coach Mark Few, is about to “amp up.”
But probably not for another 40 minutes.
The 11th-ranked Zags open against Quinnipiac on Thursday in the AdvoCare Invitational. The Bobcats, coming off a nine-win season, are 0-2 with losses to Vermont and Columbia.
The volume should be cranked for GU’s last two games here, as well as upcoming dates with Arizona, Washington, Akron (11 consecutive 20-win seasons) and Tennessee before reaching the Christmas holiday break.
Gonzaga’s second-round opponent will be Seton Hall or Florida. Both programs are receiving votes in the polls. No. 21 Iowa State, the only other ranked team in the AdvoCare field, is on the opposite side of the bracket.
Tom Moore is in his 10th season as Quinnipiac coach after 13 seasons as an assistant at Connecticut. He compiled the scouting report when the Huskies edged Gonzaga 67-62 in the 1999 Elite Eight.
Moore recalls two things from that memorable game. One, nearly the entire crowd in Phoenix was pulling for the underdog Zags, and two, UConn coach Jim Calhoun was feeling the pressure to reach the Final Four.
“He had established UConn as a national power, but he’d never been to a Final Four,” Moore said. “That might have been the most pressurized game that I’ve ever seen him go through.”
The Huskies limited GU’s top two scorers, Matt Santangelo and Richie Frahm, to 3-of-20 shooting.
“Hard-fought game,” Moore said. “I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a well-played game. We were fortunate we scored just a few more baskets than Gonzaga did.”
Fast forward to Thursday and Moore acknowledged, “We’ve probably bitten off a little more than we can chew.”
The Bobcats experienced a downturn last season and Moore thinks it might require a two-year rebuild.
“We haven’t performed well in the first two games,” he said.
Moore said his team doesn’t encounter front courts in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with the size and skill of Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins, Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie.
“My concern is how they can impact the game with their size,” Moore said. “We’ll try to shorten the game as best we can and try to do a good job on the boards.”
The Zags are off to a 3-0 start, including a 21-point drubbing of San Diego State.
“There’s going to be four or five really good teams in Orlando,” said Few, an assistant under Dan Monson on the 1999 team. “Florida is legit, Iowa State is legit. Seton Hall has everybody back except (Isaiah) Whitehead, which might help them just with shot selection.
“And Miami is big, long and athletic.”
Gonzaga routinely participates in holiday tournaments because of the high-level competition and the exposure to a variety of offensive and defensive styles. The Zags for years have tried to enhance their NCAA tournament resume with quality wins in holiday events.
“You get an NCAA tournament feel, playing back-to-back, teams from a bunch of different conferences,” Zags point guard Nigel Williams-Goss said. “So it’s a good test for us.”