Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-7) vs. Davidson Wildcats (26-6).
When: Friday, 12:15 p.m.
Where: Raleigh, N.C.
1. More Than A Few. Since he took over at Gonzaga in 1999, Mark Few is among the winningest coaches in the county. In a nine-year career that includes nine 20 win seasons and nine NCAA tournament berths, Few has an overall record of 204 wins, 53 losses. Gonzaga's West Coast Conference record during that span is 99-13.
2. Not Just Stockton. Point guard Jeremy Pargo was recently named West Coast Conference Player of the Year, the eighth straight time a Gonzaga player has won the award. With all the program's recent success, though, Gonzaga has retired only two jerseys: John Stockton's number 12, and Frank Burgess' number 44. Burgess, who played from 1958-1961, is Gonzaga's all-time leading scorer, and has the school record for points scored in a single game with 51. In the 1960-61 season, he lead the nation in scoring at 32.4 ppg, and was named first-team All-American, the first player in school history to get the honor.
3. Remembering Ehlo. Gonzaga games are broadcast throughout the western part of the country on Fox Sports, with color commentary provided by the world-famous and one-and-only Craig Ehlo. Ehlo, like the current president, hails from west Texas, and Ehlo, also like the current president, has a way with the English language. He has been known to call shooting guard Micah Downs "Michael," once decided that an opponent had an Australian dialogue, and wondered if Gonzaga would ever put a decimal reader in the Kennel. — La Rev
1. The freight. Here is some basic info you might hear over the next few days. Davidson has the nation's longest winning streak at 22 games. The Wildcats won the Southern Conference for the third year in a row, have won their past 36 conference games and 46 of the past 47.
That 36-game streak over two seasons encompasses the collegiate career of Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry is good. He was fifth in the nation with 25.1 points a game. He is the son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry. He already is the 10th-leading all-time scorer in Davidson history. He is only a sophomore. This is not insignificant as Davidson had some big-time studs back in the day - like the 1960s and 70s.
Point guard Jason Richards led the nation in assists at 8.0 a game during the regular season. Richards also was the team's second-leading scorer, which is a little unusual. Coach Bob McKillop loves intelligent, feisty point guards who are virtual coaches on the floor. He finds a guy he likes and lets him start for three or four years and really take command of the team. But these point guards pass first, defend second, direct the team third and, if they have any energy left over, try to score. This will become a bigger deal for the Wildcats next season when Richards graduates and they move Curry over to point guard. Curry is a pure scorer and whether he can handle the additional demands of point guard could determine how his final two seasons go. But that is next year's problem.
2. Excitement. Back in my day there, Davidson was a small school in a quaint, sleepy little town of the same name about a half-hour north of Charlotte, a city not quite ready for prime time. And Belk Arena was a nice small-college gym. You could cram about 6,000 people in there if you had to, but there never was any reason to.
Charlotte's urban sprawl has enveloped Davidson, and that gym was packed most of the season. Sections of seats were sold out. People camped out (yes, really) to get tickets. The Wildcats took on top 10 teams North Carolina, Duke and UCLA. They led each of them and lost those three games by a total of 22 points. Early- and late-season top 25 rankings mean this has not been the typical under-the-radar season for this mid-major program. People are noticing, and people are caring. Our long-standing refraining about not getting respect does not ring so true this year.
3. The time. I am an unabashed Davidson fan and have been ever since I enrolled in 1992. The school has had its share of athletic success in other sports, but nothing compares to the potential of the men's basketball team doing well, making an impact in the NCAA tournament. My most heartbreaking collegiate sports memory is of the Wildcats losing to a far inferior Western Carolina team during my senior year in 1996. I will carry this memory with me forever because, as I have written before and will write again, I went through school with that senior-laden team and that conference tournament, and the NCAA tournament to follow, was supposed to be our moment.
That moment was denied. Subsequent potential moments have been denied. Davidson lost to Michigan in the NCAA tournament in 1998, to Ohio State in 2002 and 2006 and to Maryland last year. The Wildcats have not won an NCAA tournament game since Lefty Driesell left as coach in 1969. (In 1964, Davidson was Sports Illustrated's preseason No. 1 team.) This week is the moment now for this team, and we long-waiting fans, students and alumni would dread having another such moment denied.
I have two friends from college who both had their first children born on December 28. And Davidson has not lost since. One said, "Coincidence? I think not." I have no idea what that has to do with anything. Those kids do not realize their fathers' school has not lost in their short lifetime. So, I guess, it's win one for the kids? — Matt Pitzer