The story coming out of Friday night’s exhibition game is that Tennessee is going to be very good and Gonzaga’s defense is a work in progress at best.
If you want to read more into an exhibition outing, knock yourself out. I’m assuming, generally, that throughout the season we will not see the first subbing for Gonzaga be all three of Efton Reid, Hunter Sallis, and Malachi Smith at the same time, for example.
But this article isn’t here to talk about all the shortcomings of the game for Gonzaga in the second half, which were noticeable. Tennessee looked more polished and ready to go and Gonzaga didn’t resemble the No. 2 team. This is how exhibitions go. The rather young and rather hyped Arkansas squad got absolutely steamrolled in their scrimmage against Texas. So it goes.
The one thing that we can take out of this game is hopefully a new model for exhibitions, and a way to support good causes all at the same time. According to the box score, there were nearly 3,000 people in attendance, and at $10 per pop, an unknown amount more who purchased the game and watched it on PPV.com. All of the proceeds from the game benefitted the John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation.
There were a lot of interviews, a lot of mic’d up moments, a lot of airtime to fill, largely because there were no commercials. But overall, the broadcast was as one would come to expect for national quality. Pairing a known national announcer in Fran Fraschilla and sitting him alongside two local guys for each squad, Tom Hudson for Gonzaga and Dane Bradshaw for SEC, was a nice touch.
The final product was something ultimately worth watching, despite the final score for the Zags. Considering that Gonzaga, like a lot of top teams around the nation, already engage in these high-level scrimmages before each season, it would not be a surprise to see this as a potential new model going forward. Combining the passion of college fanbases with charities is a time-honored tradition that often results in substantial amounts of fund raising.
Sure, Gonzaga lost. But if they lost in a scrimmage against Tennessee, not much else would be different. Instead, both fanbases had an opportunity for an early look at their squads for this year, both the successes and the failures. College basketball essentially started a week early for the Zags and the Vols.