Gonzaga has been one of the more interesting schools to watch for a while
now, as the Zags have gone from being a West Coast power to being a consistent
national presence, good to the point where they get ripped for not making the
Final Four. That's hardly fair, since only four teams make it every year
anyway, and most of them are extremely lucky at some point during the
tournament. Last year, of course, everyone was rooting for a Duke-Gonzaga
game so that J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison could have an old-fashioned shootout,
but it didn't happen. And while there's no history between these two
teams, there is, for at least one person, elements of a grudge match.
There's a name on Gonzaga's roster you might recognize - David Burgess.
The younger brother of former Duke player Chris Burgess, who transferred to
Utah, the younger Burgess transferred to Gonzaga from BYU, and recently became
His father, Ken, became a bit infamous for his tirades against Duke and Mike
Krzyzewski. He belittled Shane Battier, calling him Shane Krzyzewski.
He questioned Elton Brand's ability (whoops).
He was the most publicly dissatisfied Duke parent since Joe Gminski, who
wrote the Herald-Sun to criticize coach Bill Foster (they published it, too).
So if you see a guy who is, shall we say, somewhat overly animated, it might
be him, exorcising some old devils (sorry).
The rest of the Garden should get an interesting game.
In most years, Duke would be a clear favorite, and this year, they come in
significantly higher than the Zags, at least according to the polls, where Duke
is #6 and Gonzaga #22. But polls aren't everything, and there's plenty of
reason to think Gonzaga will give Duke fits.
First, they are good enough to have beaten UNC, Washington and Texas, among others; only
Butler, Washington State, and Georgia have had their number. Butler'story
is well known, of course, but Washington State is 10-1 under Tony Bennett, son
of former Cougar coach Dick Bennett (Tony seems to have learned from his
offensive-phobic father, who sometimes had halftime scores barely into the 20s),
and Georgia, where it is only a matter of time until Dennis Felton gets it going
in a big way down there. So it's not like they're losing to nobodies.
And it's not like Adam Morrison left them hopeless.
Guard Derek Raivio is averaging 20.3 ppg, big man Josh Heytvelt is averaging
16.8 ppg and grabbing almost 8 boards, and Jeremy Pargo is clocking at about 11
ppg. They would have highly touted Kansas transfer (and one-time Duke
recruit) Micah Downs, but he is injured currently. You may remember that
he left Kansas with his father criticizing him in the media and then saying that
the two weren't talking at that point. One hopes they have since worked it
Mark Few has been at Gonzaga for eight years now, and he gets mentioned for
every big job every year, only to turn them all down. And why not?
He's taken Gonzaga from a regional phenomenon to a national power.
They've gotten to the point where they can lose an Adam Morrison and still
remain potent. For some reason, they're still called a mid-major, but they've
really outgrown that tag.
For Duke to win, they'll have to slow Gonzaga down: the Zags are averaging
81.7 ppg. Duke would help themselves a lot also if they could get a grip
on turnovers Averaging 17 per game is pretty bad.
And the freshmen - or some anyway - will have to step up and be
counted. Jon Scheyer had a tremendous game against Kent State; he'll be
needed Thursday. Productive minutes from Gerald Henderson and Lance Thomas
would help, and Brian Zoubek (we'll stop mixing him up with Greg Koubek soon, honest) could help against Heytvelt.
It's a doable game, but certainly not an easy one. It's a good test for
a young and growing team.