Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gonzaga vs. San Francisco: No Surprises in the WCC

Last night was a TV night for me. I was a bit too late getting home from work and running errands to catch Pitt-West Virginia, the game I really wanted to see, so I sat down for a late game. Rather than just tossing on ESPN for the conventional Oklahoma State -Oklahoma game, I flipped on Gonzaga vs. San Francisco. After all, as my enjoyment of Duke implies, I’m a guy that easily buys into media hype, and Gonzaga’s certainly enjoying hype this year. Plus they’re usually pretty fun to watch. Thus, here are my one-sided game notes that focus on the Bulldogs, rather than the Dons. San Francisco probably deserves a bit more respect, with that whole leading the game much of the night and nearly taking the #5 team in the country to overtime, but does anyone outside of the Bay area really care what’s going on with the 11-16 Dons? I didn’t think so, so here are my Gonzaga-centric points, pared down to also focus on the end of the game, since the post game was nearly as brilliant as the actual game.

1) All night the announcers kept talking about how J.P. Batista’s brother was flying in from Brazil as a surprise to J.P. during his final home game. One problem, though-his plane was delayed. The announcers kept talking about a second half arrival, but to my knowledge, it never happened (though I could be mistaken, since I missed a key moment of post-game festivities). So while I guess that it’s cool that Batista’s brother made it into town, I wish the announcers had had an alternate item to talk about. Because when I hear somewhere in the neighborhood of five references to the excitement that we’re going to see out of Batista when he sees his brother, then damn it, I want to see that excitement on live TV
2) As I alluded to not long ago, Gonzaga has reached a television presence that is astounding. I was actually somewhat surprised that they weren’t on ESPN last night, since ESPN has picked up so many of their games this year. The incredible thing about Gonzaga, though, is that even if their game isn’t on ESPN, there’s still a good chance that it will be on Fox Sports Pacific. I may call Gonzaga the late-night version of Duke (due to West Coast game times), but even Duke can’t get random mid-week games picked up on FSN. I would have to estimate that if I was a dedicated Bulldog fan, I probably would have been able to see all but four of their games this year. And it’s not as if I have some phenomenal cable package. Marquette and the Big East might want to talk to someone about Spokane about what needs to be done to get more TV time. Maybe Dan Fitzgerald could grow a mustache?

3) People talk about how great Adam Morrison is, but you tend to forget that he has such a great supporting cast (particularly in light of Morrison vs. J.J. Redick player of the year talk, where Redick’s supporting cast is always correctly described as better, even though they might not be as vastly superior as most people think). Last night down the stretch, the final two key baskets of the game came from J.P. Batista and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes. Batista scored easily on a sweet drop step with just under 30 seconds to go, and Altidor-Cespedes sunk a game-winning three-pointer as the team cleared out for a Morrison drive, but was surprised by a Morrison pass. Nope, the Bulldogs are anything but a one-man show.

4) I think I’ve stated this before, and it’s probably a good topic for a future full post, but I’ll just say it for now–in the player of the year race, count me as a J.J. Redick supporter. Not the least of these reasons is the manner in which the man Morrison was guarding took him baseline on the second-to-last possession of the game. Sure, it wasn’t an easy shot, but if you’re player of the year, I don’t think it should be that easy to get the first step on you (even if defense isn’t really your thing).

5) In one of the more entertaining things I’ve seen all year, a local Spokane TV station decided to stream coverage of post game festivities of senior night on their website. Fox Sports promoted this just slightly less than the forthcoming reunion between Batista and his brother. Unfortunately for me, the post-game events were remarkably efficient, and my 5-minute break between the end of the game and my turning on my computer to check out the post-game coverage led to me missing the seniors addressing the crowd. I did get to see the cutting down of the nets, but somehow I think that probably paled in comparison to the fun that would ensue with the team directly addressing the crowd. Why can’t I be quicker on these things?

6) Side note on cutting down the nets–I’m not one to deny fun, and I certainly don’t begrudge Gonzaga for cutting down the nets to celebrate their WCC championship, and their last home game of the year. However, there’s part of me that thinks it’s still a little ridiculous to stage such a celebration when you’ve been the overwhelming favorite all year, and there was virtually no chance that someone else would win the conference. It also didn’t help that Gonzaga was down much of the night to a sub-.500 team. Again, I’m all in favor of celebrating accomplishments, but this one just doesn’t seem like a gigantic accomplishment.

7) Highlight of the night was the post-game interview conducted with Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes. When asked how he planned on celebrating his game-winning shot, he replied "I don't know, I don't know. I haven't had the chance to celebrate it yet...so, I'll see what I'm gonna do about that." Perhaps it was the serious tone in which Altidor-Cespedes spit out his answer, or the stoic look on his face 15 minutes earlier when he hit the shot, or maybe it was the fact that he was looking directly into the camera when he made his statement, but I genuinely believed that he was actually going to have to look into figuring out how to celebrate. You can’t beat a reaction like that.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the first night of high school playoffs. Odds are decent that I’ll try to get out to a game somewhere tonight, though the exact location is still up in the air.


At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend of mine is at Gonzaga. She said that when Batista was giving his senior speech his brother walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. Batista was so happy that he, and many in the stands, started crying.

I'm pissed I didnt get to see it though either.

At 3:54 PM, Blogger SA said...

Here you go Chris. A link to the video with Batista and his brother is on the right. I loved the post...keep up the good work.


At 7:51 PM, Anonymous sv said...

Also, the WCC Tournament Final has been on 11pm CT on Monday of championship week pretty much forever. We used to go the the tournament back in the 80's and 90's whenever it was in Santa Clara, and the 9pm start after a whole weekend of basketball was pretty rough. This year, ESPN has moved it up to 8pm CT, and is even covering both semis (although they may have done that the last couple years already), so even more prime time national coverage for the Zags.

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