West Regional Notebook
March 22, 2000
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Gonzaga coach Mark Few says the better his team does in the NCAA tournament, the harder it is for the Bulldogs to schedule big-name teams during the regular season.
The 10th-seeded Bulldogs, in their third NCAA tournament, have again made an impression by toppling Louisville and St. John's,
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas favor the Bulldogs as a point over No. 6 seed Purdue in the West Regional semifinal. The Boilermakers have been to the tournament 16 times and the round of 16 four times under coach Gene Keady.
"Scheduling is probably harder than recruiting at Gonzaga," Few said. "We don't get to play Purdue on our home floor, we never get to play Louisville on our home floor, or St. John's on our home floor. For us to play those games, we have to go on the road."
Maybe the oddsmakers - and the other big-time programs - have taken into account that Gonzaga has reached the regional semifinals for the second straight year and is 5-1 in the tournament in the span.
At any rate, those statistics have made it harder for the Bulldogs to schedule attractive opponents at home. Plus, they play in the relatively unknown West Coast Conference, which includes the likes of Pepperdine, Santa Clara and Saint Mary's.
It's a Catch 22 for Few. If his team continues to advance in the tournament, it can look forward to another year of being avoided by the marquee programs.
"The Zags are still looking for games next year," he said. "I doubt that's going to change."
BROTHER'S KEEPER: Purdue's Greg McQuay is turning his concern for his younger brother's illness into inspiration.
Former Boilermaker Gary McQuay is in the hospital battling acute leukemia. But that hasn't stopped the two from supporting each other on the court.
Gary phoned Greg from the hospital and gave him some words of encouragement before the Boilermakers took on Oklahoma in the second round last week.
Greg responded with his best game of the year, 16 points and five rebounds, in Purdue's 66-62 victory. Greg, who has averaged 8.1 points per game as a senior center this year, credited his performance to his brother.
"He's working hard to get better in the hospital to fight his illness, and I think I should work hard on the court," Greg McQuay said.
Greg McQuay wears his brother's No. 5 on his shoes and his fingers. Gary faces at least two more weeks in the hospital.
"I wanted to dedicate the (Oklahoma) game to him," Greg McQuay said. "I put that there to let him know he was there in my memories and he was there with me in spirit. He even shed a tear when we won. He's going to keep me stronger and hopefully he will get stronger."
ALTITUDE SICKNESS: Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett has a method for dealing with the high altitude in Albuquerque. Substitute quickly and often.
"When we see a guy looking really beat, we will sub. That's kind of how we did in Salt Lake City," Bennett said on the eve of Wisconsin's game against LSU.
The Pit, home court of the University of New Mexico, is more than a mile above sea level. But that doesn't discourage Bennett, who depends on his team's depth to win games.
"We have managed to substitute and change lineups," Bennett said. "Everyone gets quality minutes, and everyone... gets a consistent number of shots. It's a blessing in disguise because everyone is ready to go."
BACK IN THE DANCE: LSU is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993. That doesn't faze forward Stromile Swift.
The Tigers' tough schedule this year has prepared Swift for the best the NCAA tournament has to offer - including eighth-seeded Wisconsin.
"We've been playing ranked teams all year," he said. "Just because we are in the NCAA tournament doesn't mean anything. They (Wisconsin) are a good team and that's the way we are going to approach it."
The seven-year absence has the Tigers lacking in big-game experience. But Swift still remains unconcerned.
"I guess it makes (a) difference but then again, it doesn't," Swift said. "It's all about survival and that's the type of basketball we've been playing all year."
By CHAKA FERGUSON
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