March 12, 2012
Gonzaga players: Bring it on
WVU opponent doesn't mind its tourney draw
Courtesy photo
Robert Sacre, Gonzaga's 7-foot center, relishes the thought of playing a physical Big East team.

MORGANTOWN - If Gonzaga is at all concerned about having to travel all the way across the country to play a lower-seeded Big East team in its own backyard in its opening game of the NCAA tournament, well, the Bulldogs are hiding it well.

Coach Mark Few talks about how difficult and delicate the seeding and placement process is for the tournament selection committee and how he understands that if "you start worrying about the 7 and 10 seeds, you'd never get it done.''

Forward Elias Harris, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound bruiser, speaks of playing Big East teams that "want to kick your teeth in'' and seems to relish the thought.

And 7-foot senior center Robert Sacre talks of "salivating [over the thought of] playing outside the WCC,'' a league whose officiating style apparently does not lend itself to physical play.

In other words, bring it on - no matter the opponent or the location.

The Zags will get the chance Thursday night when seventh-seeded Gonzaga (25-6) meets No. 10 seed West Virginia (19-13) in an NCAA East Regional game in Pittsburgh. The 7:20 p.m. contest at Consol Energy Center will be televised by TNT.

When Gonzaga learned of its opening matchup in the tournament, the players' thoughts immediately turned to two things - playing a game in such close proximity to WVU and facing a Big East team. The former is apparently not an issue.

"I think it's more about what we bring than the atmosphere [in the arena] and the fans,'' said freshman guard Kevin Pangos, who is Gonzaga's leading scorer. "We've traveled and played games like this before. It's just like going to Xavier.''

Gonzaga beat Xavier, also an NCAA tournament No. 10 seed, 72-65 on New Year's Eve on the Musketeers' home floor in Cincinnati.

As for the physical nature of playing a Big East team, that's apparently not an issue, either. In fact, the Bulldogs seem to delight in the notion.

"All those Big East teams play physical basketball,'' Harris said. "You just put your hardhats on.''

Just how physical the game gets will, of course, be determined by how the game is called by the officials assigned to it. But there is no question that West Virginia under Bob Huggins likes to play a physical brand of basketball. Again, say the Zags, bring it on.

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