BUMP AND STACY

Ringer’s Tate Frazier: Why 3-seed Gonzaga has chance at title run

Mar 16, 2023, 12:47 PM | Updated: 2:56 pm

Gonzaga Julian Strawther Ben Gregg...

Gonzaga G Julian Strawther, G Ben Gregg and G Malachi Smith celebrate their WCC tournament title. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The 2022-23 men’s college basketball season for the Gonzaga Bulldogs hasn’t been as strong as their fans have become used to, but that really just hammers home how successful head coach Mark Few’s program has become.

The Zags begin their 24th straight NCAA Tournament at 4:35 p.m. Friday as the No. 3 seed in the West Region against 14th-seeded Grand Canyon, and for the first time in a long time, Gonzaga is actually a sleeper pick due to its 28-5 record and having shared the West Coast Conference regular season title with Saint Mary’s.

Maybe that’s not really a bad thing.

“I do feel like America is off the scent a little bit this year with Gonzaga,” The Ringer’s Tate Frazier said Wednesday when he joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy. “Usually, because they’ve been so consistently good, we see them picked as kind of the darling title pick. I haven’t seen that as much this year. … If I was a Gonzaga fan, I would like how people are not talking about Gonzaga in that way, because they’re good enough to win a title.”

Frazier is one of the bigger names in college basketball podcasts, having recently returned to The Ringer to once again host One Shining Podcast following a run with FOX Sports on Titus & Tate. He’s been able to keep a close eye on Gonzaga being located on the West Coast in California, and even though the Zags (ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press poll) have had some tough losses this season, he believes they’re rounded into shape at the right time. In particular, he was impressed by their easy 77-51 win over Saint Mary’s (No. 19 in the AP poll) in the WCC Tournament championship game on March 7. There’s also one player coming off the bench for the Zags who has caught his attention.

“I will say I watched Gonzaga early in the year and I was not impressed. But as Mark Few does, Mark Few got this team rolling,” Frazier said. “I love this guy off the bench, (forward) Ben Gregg. He is the future ‘big’ of Gonzaga. He was giving me major Zach Collins vibes. I like (guard Julian) Strawther. I like the defensive intensity that I saw in the WCC championship game against Saint Mary’s – that gave me a spark of hope.”

Related: Timme sets Gonzaga scoring record, Zags routs Saint Mary’s for WCC title

There’s perhaps an even bigger reason Frazier thinks the Zags are a contender to make it to Houston for their third Final Four appearance in the last six NCAA Tournaments: their path, which could see them play some talented but banged-up teams.

“I think they handle Grand Canyon,” Frazier said, “(then) TCU has got a lot of drama going on right now with their team. Eddie Lampkin (Jr.), one of their starters, just left the team and entered the transfer portal, so there’s just a lot going on there. I think that’s a good draw (for Gonzaga). I see them getting to the Sweet 16, and then you’re potentially matched up with the UCLA team who lost Jaylen Clark, their defensive player of the year, (and) the Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12, Adem Bona, he’s questionable. He has a sore shoulder injury going on right now, so that potentially could be a good draw for the Zags.”

As Frazier pointed out, a Sweet 16 matchup between Gonzaga and No. 2 seed UCLA would be filled with drama considering the two teams have quite the history in the tournament.

“We got the Jalen Suggs shot (in Gonzaga’s 2021 Final Four win over UCLA), we also got the Adam Morrison game (when UCLA came back to beat Gonzaga in the 2006 Sweet 16) prior to that, so there’s just a lot of history between Gonzaga and UCLA. So I like that draw in the Sweet 16.”

Frazier wouldn’t even count out the Zags should they get to the Elite Eight and run into No. 1 seed Kansas, who won the whole thing last year.

“Then they could potentially play the reigning champs in Kansas – with Mark Few, with (senior forward) Drew Timme, an experienced, seasoned guy. Kansas doesn’t have a traditional big – they play this kid KJ Adams (Jr.) who’s like a 6-foot-7, switchable five, but he’s not a traditional big. Maybe Drew Timme likes that matchup, and maybe Gonzaga gets to the Final Four, gets to Houston. And as we know, if you get to Houston, anything can happen.”

Listen to the full Bump and Stacy conversation with Frazier, which includes his pick to win the tournament and much more, in the player below.

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