The Gonzaga Bulldogs finally took a challenge that this program has ignored in past seasons. Gonzaga played a meaningful non-conference game late in their season. With a great showing tonight against a very good Memphis Tigers team, although in a losing effort, the Bulldogs gave their resume a solid boost and gave Gonzaga some valuable experience in playing an NCAA Tournament-caliber game late in the regular season. Gonzaga sent a major statement by having Memphis on the ropes for 39 of the 40 minutes. America should take notice of what Gonzaga did tonight.
Gonzaga frustrated Memphis at their own game early on, scoring in transition and not allowing the Tigers to get into their game offensively. The Bulldogs also handled the Memphis defensive pressure well as Gonzaga guards Kevin Pangos and David Stockton combined for only one turnover the entire game. Gonzaga shot 45 percent from the floor against one of the best defensive teams in the nation and held a good Memphis offense to only 35 percent shooting.
A loss will not crush the Bulldogs as they will be among the top teams in the tournament. However, with only one victory against a top 50 RPI team in BYU, Gonzaga would have further secured a higher seed with a victory over another top 50 RPI team on the road against Memphis.
Despite Gonzaga’s loss tonight, head coach Mark Few and the Bulldogs will set a new trend that other teams should follow. Teams don’t have to finish their non-conference schedules early in the season. At least one non-conference game should be set aside toward the end of the year so that teams can get a true test of what playing in an NCAA Tournament-caliber game is like.