One of my personal favorite Thanksgiving memories was sitting in a rented condo in Seaview, Washington, sans internet, huddled around someone’s brand new iPhone 4, with my dad and uncles, streaming the Gonzaga game while the rest of the family enjoyed board games, being social, and acknowledging each other’s presence.
As Jon Rothstein will say each and every year, the sure things in life are death, taxes, and for a slight spin on it, Gonzaga in a non-conference tournament during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Some of those tournament runs have given us some of the better games in Gonzaga history, so let’s take a quick run down memory lane and see how the Zags have fared in recent years.
2015: Battle 4 Atlantis (third place)
When you look back on the 2015-16, there were a lot of omens that sort of predicted what happened last season. Then again, hindsight is always 20/20, as they say. But after having the Armed Forces Classic cancelled, coupled with the loss to Texas A&M in the Battle 4 Atlantis, at that point, we truly realized how thin the Zags were.
But much of that on paper is water on the bridge because the Zags still got third place. What is easy to forget in that game against Connecticut was the Zags also nearly squandered a 20 point or so lead, barely holding on to win, 73-70.
2014: NIT Season Tip-off (won)
Winning this was nice, sure, but also the 2014 NIT Season Tip-off struggled to fill the bracket, literally. Teams named Franklin Pierce, St. Thomas Aquinas, and LIU Brooklyn were in a field that was led by Gonzaga, Georgia, Saint Joseph’s and St. John’s. The then No. 13 Gonzaga Bulldogs were literally the cream of the crop. Winning the tournament was a nice feather in the cap, but none of the victories really screamed any sort of placement. This tournament was even more of a pain in Gonzaga’s ass, because when the Zags faced off against Georgia, this is what happened to Josh Perkins:
2013: Maui Invitational (fifth place)
Ok hold on a second, I’m starting to sense a recurring theme here. The Zags haven’t really been too good in Thanksgiving holiday tournaments as of late. The 2013 Maui Invitational was just another example. Three ranked teams (Gonzaga, Syracuse and Baylor) highlighted the field, but the Zags squandered any chance of that by losing to Dayton in the first round. The Zags would then go on to defeat Chaminade and Arkansas, but missed out on a key opportunity to get quality wins against Baylor or Syracuse.
That year, missing out on those ranked opportunities mattered, because the rest of the non-conference slate didn’t offer much in the name of statement opportunities, especially since the Zags also lost to both Kansas State and Memphis. A couple of wins here and there might have moved them off the dreaded No. 8/No. 9 line in the NCAA Tournament.
2012: Old Spice Classic (won)
This was one of those non-conference tournaments that you would’ve wished to see some better teams in. Gonzaga had the opportunity to play Clemson, Oklahoma and Davidson, but none of those teams really gave the Zags any lift on their tournament resume. This was especially a bummer, because the 2012-13 Gonzaga team would go down in history as one of the school’s best, and it was unfortunate they didn’t get the opportunity to showcase themselves in front of better opposition.
2011: (no tournament)
All of this goes to show a few things: 1) the Zags haven’t had as good of success in Feast Week tournaments as I originally though; 2) the Zags need to make a good mark in these tournaments for seeding come March; and 3) win or lose, watching basketball instead of football is definitely a superior form of entertainment.
The AdvoCare Tournament should give the Zags a good test right off the bat. Doing the wrong thing and completely looking past their opening round opponent of Quinnipiac, the Zags will either face the defensive pressure of Seton Hall or Florida in the second round. On the other side of the bracket, there is the legitimate possibility of meeting either Iowa State or Miami in the championship round.
This Gonzaga team has a lot of promise, and we’ve already seen glimpses of it in the thorough mashing of San Diego State. If the Zags are going to make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, they will be much better off with a high seed in the pocket. After the AdvoCare Invitational, the Zags get their game against Arizona, and that is about it. The non-conference slate doesn’t offer too many other tantalizing games for resume building.
The Zags still have upstart BYU and Saint Mary’s squads this year to give some resume-boosting wins, but taking care of all business in the AdvoCare Invitational will go a long way in March.