Posted on: March 9, 2011 12:14 am
Edited on: March 9, 2011 12:22 pm

Guess who's in the NCAA tournament again?

Gonzaga was No. 12 in the preseason Associated Press poll.

Butler was 17th.

Neither school met those expectations this season. But in the past two days they've both still managed to do what they always do -- make the NCAA tournament somehow, someway. The Zags earned a spot with Monday's 75-63 win over Saint Mary's in the West Coast Conference tournament title game. Then on Tuesday, Butler went on the road and beat Milwaukee 59-44 to win the Horizon League's automatic bid.

So now everything makes sense.

And do you see why Gonzaga and Butler are both great coaching spots?

While power-conference jobs like Clemson, Marquette, Minnesota, Alabama, Baylor, Southern California and countless others require coaches to build to the point where they can hopefully earn at-large bids during nice years, Gonzaga and Butler are setup to make the NCAA tournament in good and bad times alike. Both are national brands that garner intriguing non-league opportunities. When things go well, the Zags and Bulldogs receive Top 25 votes and remain ranked most of the season. When they don't, the programs are still solid enough to win their inferior leagues, which is why Gonzaga is about to play in its 13th straight NCAA tournament, Butler in its fifth straight.

That's also why Few has never left Gonzaga.

And it's why Stevens probably won't leave Butler (unless Indiana calls someday).

In a sport where coaches secure contract extensions with NCAA tournament bids and get fired after consecutive NITs, this season proved why Few or Stevens would be foolish to leave a job with so many built-in advantages for a middle-of-the-pack power-conference gig. At most BCS-affiliated schools, a coach has to at least slightly overachieve to make the NCAA tournament. But Gonzaga and Butler are so strong relative to their conference brethren that coaches there can reasonably expect to make the Field of 68 regardless of the circumstances or even if they underachieve.

That's the definition of a great job.

And by great, I mean really, really safe.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Butler, Gonzaga
Posted on: November 17, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2010 9:26 pm

Gonzaga's Harris did not tear Achilles

An MRI conducted Wednesday on Gonzaga's Elias Harris revealed that the 6-foot-8 forward did not, as initially feared, tear his Achilles tendon in Tuesday's 79-76 loss to San Diego State, a source close to the progam told CBSSports.com. The source added that the area behind the Achilles is, however, swollen, and that it remains unclear whether Harris will be available Monday when the No. 11 Zags play No. 3 Kansas State in Kansas City.

An official announcement from the school is expected late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Harris averaged 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds last season.

He's considered a likely first-round NBA pick.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 1, 2010 12:19 pm

Will BYU force other WCC schools to invest?

I have a column about BYU's decision to play men's basketball in the West Coast Conference that'll be posted a little later on today, but the column focuses less on BYU than it does on what BYU's move will mean for Gonzaga. The gist of the column is about how Mark Few couldn't be more excited, not only because of how it will bring another high-profile program into the league, but also because of what it could mean for the rest of the WCC.

It's no secret that one of the reasons Gonzaga has dominated the WCC is because no other conference school is committed to basketball the way Gonzaga is committed to basketball, and the addition of BYU will only widen that gap. What Few hopes is that opposing administrations recognize this reality, and that they start investing appropriately out of fear of falling further behind.

"In the past people [in the WCC] would go to their administrations and ask for things, and they'd hear 'That's not how we do things in this league. It's just how Gonzaga does things,'" Few said. "But now it's like, 'Well no, it's not. It's how Gonzaga and BYU do things. So you've got to step it up.'"

Whether other WCC members actually step it up remains to be seen

But if they don't, this much is clear: They won't be playing for second anymore.

They'll instead be playing annually for third, at best.
Posted on: March 25, 2010 8:35 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2010 8:45 pm

Boise State hires Gonzaga assistant

HOUSTON -- Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice has accepted an offer to be Boise State's basketball coach, a source close to Rice confirmed to CBSSports.com.

An official announcement is expected Friday.

This development is interesting on a larger scale because it suggests Mark Few doesn't plan to leave Gonzaga -- even though he's clearly a candidate at Oregon -- because Rice would've likely been Few's successor, and it's doubtful he would've taken the Boise State job if he thought Few was leaving. In other words, Gonzaga's loss of an assistant is also the first real sign that its head coach intends to stay.

Posted on: February 26, 2010 2:45 pm

Dear Gary (on Few and my Naismith COY ballot)

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Seriously?  You submit a list of 30 candidates for Coach of the Year, and Mark Few doesn't even make the list?  He lost four players from last year who are playing professional ball somewhere right now, has had to integrate numerous freshmen into the rotation, and Gonzaga is still playing at a high level and being successful.  Seriously?
-- Colin

I messed up.

No question, Mark Few should be on the list.

In fact, I'm emailing the folks in charge of the Naismith Coach of the Year award right now and altering my ballot. I'll take somebody off and insert Few, who seems to be a victim of my absent mind and his consistent winning. It's to the point where you just expect Gonzaga to be good. All the time. And that makes you -- and by you , I mean people like me -- overlook the fact that the Zags are 22-5 and ranked 18th nationally despite losing four of their top five scorers from last season's team.

Not sure why I overlooked it this week considering I wrote about it last month.

(Click this link to read that column)

But I did overlook it.

And I was wrong to do so.

And because it's not too late to fix it, I'm going to fix it right now.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 15, 2010 10:14 am

Dear Gary (on Gonzaga and Wake Forest)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: I'm afraid I'm going to have to call you out on your rankings this week for having Gonzaga ranked above Wake Forest (to be fair, I have yet to see anyone put them the other way around).

---- Wake Forest ----

Wins over likely tournament teams: A-Gonzaga, H-Xavier, H-Maryland, H-Georgia Tech
Wins over bubble teams: H-Richmond, H-Virginia, A-Virginia
Losses : H-William & Mary, A-Purdue, A-Miami, A-Duke, A-Georgia Tech

---- Gonzaga ----

Wins over likely tournament teams: N-Wisconsin, A-Illinois
Wins over bubble teams: N-Cincinnati, A-Portland, A-St. Mary's, H-Portland, A-Memphis, H-St.Mary's
Losses: A-Michigan State, H-Wake Forest, N-Duke, A-San Francisco

So what we see here is that Wake has more victories over tournament teams, Gonzaga has more wins over bubble teams (using this definition pretty loosely), and the losses are comparable -- the Duke losses about cancel out, as do the Purdue and Michigan State set of losses. Gonzaga's loss to Wake at home is similar to Wake's loss to Georgia Tech on the road. That leaves the William & Mary and Miami losses for Wake and the San Francisco loss for Gonzaga. Of those, the San Francisco loss is the worst of the bunch, but Gonzaga also has one fewer loss. I'd give a small advantage to Gonzaga there. So, the resumes look fairly similar except that Wake has that head-to-head win, which goes a long way in my mind toward jumping them past the Zags. In any event, I don't see any justification for having the teams that far apart in the Top 25 (and one).

-- Lowell

I can appreciate the effort, Lowell.

And you make a nice argument.

My counterargument would be that Gonzaga only has one bad loss as opposed to Wake's two bad losses. Beyond that, I'd point out that Wake gets more opportunities to play likely tournament teams and bubble teams based on nothing more than league affiliation. So just counting good wins isn't fair to a WCC team. Instead, I'd suggest we look at what each team has done against good teams. Against the list you provided, Gonzaga is 8-3 against likely NCAA tournament teams and bubble teams with one bad loss (San Francisco) while Wake Forest is 7-3 against the same group with two bad losses (William & Mary and Miami).

Advantage: Zags.

Yes, Wake Forest did beat Gonzaga earlier this season. But it was by two points, and it happened more than two months ago. I don't think you can let that sway you too much at this point. At the time, it mattered. Now, not nearly as much. Either way, you make good points, and this is the type of question I enjoy. It's thoughtful and well-researched, much better than a "How can you not rank Northern Iowa, you idiot? They've won a bunch of games!"

So a tip of the hat to you, Lowell.

But don't attack the Poll Attacker.

It's suicide via email.
Posted on: February 6, 2010 1:05 pm

Little rest + flight has oddsmakers skeptical

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- I'm about to head to FedExForum for Gonzaga-Memphis.

Would you believe the Tigers are a 5-point favorite at Sportsbook.com?

It's possible oddsmakers weren't impressed with the 17th-ranked Zags' 76-49 win over Portland late Thursday, but the fact that that game was played late Thursday probably has more to do with the line. Gonzaga-Portland tipped at 10 p.m. CT, and the Zags didn't get out of the arena until around 1 a.m. CT. What followed was a short night of rest, an early workout, a flight across time zones from Spokane to Memphis, and now they've got an afternoon game in a hostile environment that'll feature 18,000 fans cheering against them.

"It's not ideal," Gonzaga coach Mark Few told me yesterday, and he's right. But this is the kind of thing a power non-BCS program does in the spirit of exposure and quality non-league games. So the Zags will be there in search of their first win at FedExForum, but going forward it would be nice if the WCC would move Gonzaga's league game immediately before the Memphis game back a day to Wednesday, that way the conference's flagship program could battle C-USA's flagship program on more of a level playing field.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Gonzaga, Memphis
Posted on: February 1, 2010 8:00 pm

The Poll Attacks

President Obama attended the Georgetown-Duke game.

He must've taken Pat Ridgell's seat.

And his TV.

And his internet service.

I'll explain momentarily.

It's time to Poll Attack!

AP poll: Georgetown is 16-4 with wins over four ranked teams while Duke is 17-4 with just one win over a ranked team. When you combine that nugget of information with the fact that two of the Hoyas' four losses are to the teams ranked second (Villanova) and third (Syracuse) nationally, it's simple to see that Georgetown owns the superior body of work.

And then there's this: Georgetown just beat the absolute dog crap out of Duke.

The final score was 89-77.

But it wasn't really as close as that might indicate.

And yet Pat Ridgell from the Daily Times-Call in Colorado somehow came to the conclusion that Duke should be ranked ninth on his ballot -- four spots ahead of No. 13 Georgetown. How could that possibly be defended? He's also got Gonzaga ranked ahead of Georgetown, and that seems even crazier considering the Zags are 17-4 with a loss to San Francisco and a 35-point loss to Duke, i.e., the same team that just lost by 12 to Georgetown .

Truth is, I like all three teams -- Georgetown, Duke and Gonzaga.

I have them all ranked.

But I have them ranked in that order -- No. 8 Georgetown, No. 10 Duke and No. 20 Gonzaga.

If you have those teams in any order besides that order, you've made a mistake.

An obvious and ridiculous mistake.

Coaches poll: So I finally got Louisiana Tech out of the "Others Receiving Votes" part of the AP poll, but the Bulldogs are still getting votes in the Coaches poll, even after Saturday's 91-77 home loss to New Mexico State. It's incredible that somebody continues to rank this team, and what's even more incredible is that Louisiana Tech got three points last week and four points this week, meaning the Bulldogs actually gained a point after a double-digit home loss to a New Mexico State team that entered with a 12-8 record.

My God.

But I'm over Louisiana Tech.

What I want to know is how Connecticut got six points.

What stupid coach is voting for UConn?

The Huskies are 13-8 with one win over a ranked team (Texas) and four losses to unranked teams (Cincinnati, Michigan, Providence and Marquette), and they were on a two-game losing streak entering Monday night's game with Louisville. If you had a Top 35 ballot you'd have a hard time getting Connecticut on it.  So I can't figure out how a coach -- i.e., a man with a college degree and some presumed basketball knowledge -- could put UConn on a Top 25 ballot ... unless, of course, it's the same coach who's still voting for Louisiana Tech.

In that case, it makes perfect sense.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com