(AP) – Touting his team’s accomplishments has become a defense mechanism for Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
Hard to blame him with all the complaints that the Zags do not play anyone and are in a weak conference.
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The resume should speak for itself. Gonzaga has been to the national championship game twice in the past four years, reached the Sweet 16 10 times and annually plays one of the nation’s toughest nonconference schedules, winning most of those games.
And add one more: another No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Top-ranked Gonzaga is the No. 1 overall seed for the second straight season in the 68-team bracket released Sunday. The Zags open against No. 16 seed Georgia State in Portland, Oregon, on Thursday in a West Region that includes No. 2 seed Duke in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final NCAA Tournament, No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Arkansas.
The West Regional finishes in San Francisco.
“It’s quite an accomplishment by this group to go all the way through a season like this and end up with another No. 1 seed, ”Few said Tuesday after the Zags clinched their eighth West Coast Conference tournament title in nine years. “I know sometimes people just expect that, but it does not magically happen. There’s so much work that goes into it, everybody’s gunning for us. ”
Gonzaga (26-3) has been a No. 1 seed three of the past four seasons and would have added another had the pandemic not canceled the 2020 postseason. The Zags were the No. 1 overall seed a year ago and reached the national title game, losing to Baylor.
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Gonzaga has the type of roster to make another deep run.
The Zags are big, their post anchored by preseason All-American Drew Timme and freshman sensation Chet Holmgren. Senior Andrew Nembhard is often the best player on the floor and leads a group of guards who can shoot from the perimeter or blow past defenders off the dribble.
Gonzaga led the nation in scoring, is No. 1 in the KenPom.com efficiency ratings and won games by an average of 22.5 points.
“They can shoot the ball, have a ridiculous inside game, defend well, big and have good shooters,” said Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett, whose team is the No. 5 seed in the East Region. “Their offense is as good as any in the country.”
Get past Georgia State and Few could face one of his former assistants in the second round, Boise State coach Leon Rice. The eighth-seeded Broncos open against No. 9 seed Memphis.
The Tigers are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014, finally breaking through with one of Penny Hardaway’s highly touted recruiting classes. Memphis had the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2021, but took a while to gel and get healthy after a rash of injuries.
The breakthrough should take some of the pressure off Hardaway, who faced criticism early in the season while the Tigers were struggling.
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