After Sunday’s announcement of the NCAA Tournament pairings, Gonzaga coach Mark Few conducted a teleconference with out-of-town media.
How did your team react to the seeding, the site, the opponent?
“I don’t think any of us were that concerned or hung up with the seed this year. We knew we were going to be somewhere in the middle of the pack, and knowing the rules of the bracketing, they can slide you up or slide you down. And we knew we were going to get a really, really tough opponent in our first game and if we’re fortunate enough to win, in our second game. From that regard, that wasn’t something that we were too hung up on. Obviously, the location was nice. There were some that would’ve been really tough for us to get to and friends and family to get to. It was nice to able to stay out west. It was nice to be able to stay in our time zone. Oklahoma State … obviously we played them last year down in Stillwater. It was a great game. We were fortunate enough to get out of there with a win. There’s a lot of characters on both teams from that game that experienced it, so we can try to draw off that in a positive way.”
How formidable is OSU? And could they be a bit underseeded because of some of the difficulties that they had?
“No question. I think they’re vastly probably underseeded based on how they are playing right this particular time. And again, they make these random numbers based on your whole body of work, they say. But that’s a team that since Marcus (Smart) has come back has been on a mission. They are definitely trending upwards, but so are we. We are a team that’s definitely playing some of our best basketball.”
How much of a challenge is Smart?
“He’s a huge challenge. I know him well. I was fortunate enough to be able to coach him over the summer in USA Basketball. Unbelievable competitor. Unbelievable guy. High character guy and a great leader. He’s a lot like some of my guys. If you keep score, he’s gonna try to win. That’s how my guys are. I think that’s what makes him so special combined with his size and strength and athleticism. He’s done a great job instilling that, his personality into that team. Because of that, that’s why they were so highly ranked early in the year and why they’re playing so well now. But it’s not just him. Markel Brown, I think, after watching him last year and seeing him again this year, he’s an NBA player. Le’Bryan Nash has been on the NBA radar forever. I think they’ve got him probably playing the best that he’s played. They’re just a real athletic and gifted team.”
You mention that Smart’s a high character guy, but a lot of fans will know him as the player who shoved a fan and kicked a chair. Is it a case of a high character guy getting frustrated a couple times, or might it be something more than that?
“Not at all. He is a very high character individual that I’ve been able to see upfront and firsthand and gotten to know. I think if you go through any of our lives, any of us – coaches, fans, media, anybody that’s ever walked on this earth – we all have an incident or two here or there that we regret. Unfortunately, his was played out in front of everybody. It was probably born out of how competitive he is. He without sin, cast the first stone, is all I’ve got to say on that one. I’ve never questioned it, and I never questioned how he’d come back from this. It was a no-brainer to me that he’d get right back on track and get them winning.”