Gonzaga at Saint Mary's (West Coast)McKeon Pavilion - Moraga, CA11:00 PM EST
We get a lot of questions as to why we actually mention Gonzaga by its actual school title now, as we got a full two years out of the "Unnamed Major Program From the Northwest" title and its associated UMPFN
acronym. That's a lot of mileage for one gag. It originated back in 2004 when (much like this year with the Xaviers) a lot of fans out there got all cranky about being lumped in with the lowly mid-majors, and we gave them their wish by making letters out of them. Truth was, we were and still are totally jealous of what they've done in Spokane, turning a basketball backwater into a national powerhouse in one short decade with devoted resources, a team concept, outstanding recruiting and timely success. This was hard work, not lightning in a bottle -- it could theoretically happen anywhere, from Canisius to Morehead State. But it hasn't, despite all the talk about programs wanting to be the "next Gonzaga" -- lots of wannabes have ended up on the endless lose-fire-hire treadmill instead.
And yes, the Zags would be in a power conference if it wasn't for the school's lack of football, and it's the only school in the BracketBusters leagues that you can say, straight-faced, is an "exception." So tonight, it's another WCC clash in Moraga, Calif. with the Gaels, and they'll bring a 17-5 (6-0 in league) record to the table, along with the league's best and most efficient offense, defense and ball-sharing abilities. Sophomore big-guard Matt Bouldin
(12.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg) is shaping up to be the next Superzag, and he absolutely shot the lights out every time we saw him live as a freshman. Speaking of frosh, there's also 6-10 Austin Daye
(11.5 ppg), who shoots 90 percent from the line despite his size. Everywhere you look on this team, you see someone who can beat you.
Which will make things all the harder for Saint Mary's (18-3, 5-1) tonight, despite getting to play in front of the "Gael Force" student section. But for the first time since the Nineties, SMC has three major scoring options at different sizes, A being its Australian aborigine point guard Patty Mills
(14.9 ppg, 3.7 apg), who will get his first taste of the rivalry tonight. There's a lot of history in this series
, and Gonzaga's been the school's measuring stick for the Gaels for years now with series splits in 2004-05 and last season. They've been ranked twice this year after a big victories over Oregon and later a stretch of 10 wins in 11 games, but a nationally televised (ESPN2) win over their longtime league rivals would signal that this team is truly ready for the big time.SMC 89, GONZ 85 (OT)