Gonzaga (pictured right by the Associated Press) is jammed Friday with final prep for its first Sweet 16 matchup with No. 3 seed Xavier on Saturday at Arco Arena. In addition to practice, the day is filled with media interviews with ESPN, radio spots back home and cheesing for the camera.
The seventh-seeded Zags were pegged at the beginning of the season to make noise. Only an opening loss to South Dakota State and double-digits defeats to Stanford (31 points) and Baylor (21 points) made folks question the team from Spokane.
Well, the hype is back on as the Bulldogs (29-4) grab more press in the nation’s bigger newspapers. USA Today wrote about the rise of the so-called mid-major while The New York Times also spotlighted the team in a blog.
Both the Musketeers and Zags are on 20-game win streaks and have similar looks in their lineup. Xavier PF Amber Harris didn’t play in last season’s opening-round loss to Gonzaga, but even she has a familiar look to Zags PF Vivian Frieson. The big difference, however, is that Frieson is undersized for her position at 6-foot and Harris is 6-5.
“They are very similar in their abilities inside and out,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “They can handle the ball and make plays. The only difference is Amber is about six-inches taller with a lot longer arms.
“I really like the way they (Xavier) plays. Although we’re an offensive team, I’ve always prided myself over the years on great defense and that’s the one thing they do — they defend well and they rebound well. Those are two areas, especially the rebounding, that we’re really going to have to focus on or we’re going to have a very difficult time.”
Game time is set for 8:30 p.m. on EPSN2.
Oh, and for those wondering, the GU assistant coaches haven’t given birth, yet. Although some players thought Lisa Mispley Fortier, a native of Sacramento, Calif., had a cow after the team’s upset against No. 2 Texas A&M;on Monday.
“She may be hormonal or whatever, but Lisa she’s a hard(rear) at practice,” Frieson said. “Just to see her crying because she’s so happy, that kind of thing to me made it more special. To see my team happy, that is what is so special to me.”