I can't tell you how thankful I was to get back to basketball on Thursday...playing tourist in Buffalo is only fun for so long. The Gonzaga men's basketball team was also ready to get back to business as usual.
The Bulldogs had a busy day. They first met with all the media in Buffalo (watch the uncut player press conference and Mark Few's press conference as well) and the team also held an open-to-the-public shootaround at HSBC Arena (here are some pictures of the Zags on the floor 1 2 3). The shootaround is really just a showcase for the fans. It's a chance for people to see all of the teams playing at each venue (a cool picture from the press level at the arena). The real practices (today and yesterday) take place at a closed off-site location (the Zags are working out at the University of Buffalo).
The team appears to be really loose. They weren't having as much fun in the locker room (a pic from the locker room) as I remember them having last year, but they still seem calm and collected. At one point during the shootout, I heard Steven Gray telling some of the other players about how bad he wants to shave his head (obviously not basketball conversation). The guys were also hooting and hollering every time someone threw down a dunk (check out this picture of Sam Dower throwing down a reverse jam). Again, the shootaround is really relaxed. At one point, Will Foster dunked, held on to the rim, and touched his feet to the floor (so he was still holding the rim without even being in the air). All of the fans in the building got a kick out of that (so did I).
During the shootaround, the Bulldogs also ran a drill where two players sprint down the floor as fast as possible passing the ball back and forth, while another Zag (who starts behind them a second later) tries to catch up and act as a defender trying to break up the play. I think Gonzaga was trying to imitate what it is going to be like to play against Florida State's defense (they are one of the best defensive teams in the country). The big men (Foster and Robert Sacre) also spent extra time working on their post game. As Demetri Goodson told me today...those guys need to be huge against the Seminoles.
Foster and Sacre need to play well because Florida State is huge (we talked to them and watched their practice today as well -- picture). They have six players who are 6'7" or taller. The tallest of the bunch is 7'1" center Solomon Alabi (I walked by him today...he appeared even taller than his listed height). If GU's big two get in any kind of foul trouble tomorrow...Gonzaga will be in serious trouble.
Gonzaga will also have to find a way to win without many fans in town. There are some fans here, but they are few and far between. The Zags play in the same session as Syracuse tomorrow (they face Vermont after GU), so expect to see plenty of orange shirts in the stands for the game (Syracuse is just 130 miles from Buffalo). The good news is...there aren't many FSU fans here either.
I ran a feature on KREM 2 News tonight about Kelly Olynyk who grew up right across the border from Buffalo in Toronto. Click here to check out that story. Hopefully you saw our other live report on KREM 2 News at 5pm about the shootaround and some local Gonzaga fans because it's not on our website (there is no one back in Spokane who can post it for me either...sorry).
I also want to mention that we have an uncut question and answer with former Gonzaga star Matt Santangelo on KREM.com. Chris interviewed him a couple of days ago for our Bulldog Madness special.
There is also more to report on in Buffalo away from the basketball court. It should come as no surprise that it pertains to food. There is another "Buffalo tradition" (other than wings) called Beef on Weck. It's roast beef served on a kummelweck roll. There is salt and caraway seeds sprinkled on top to add flavor. The sandwich is also served with a side of au jus. Here is a picture of the sandwich (my photographer Brett Allbery called it the best roast beef sandwich he's ever had). I agree...Beef on Weck is pretty awesome.
They also serve french fries with gravy here in Buffalo. The waiter brought the gravy to the table and Brett asked, "What is that?" The waiter responded by saying, "It's gravy...for the fries," with a "why are you asking me a stupid question?" look on his face. I have to admit...I'm a believer in gravy fries (as gross as it might sound to some)! Note: I'm like Mikey...I'll eat anything.
I hear that a Friday night fish fry is also a tradition in Buffalo...that is next on my list (if we have time).
Our day is finally winding down. I can't wait for the game tomorrow! Tip-off is scheduled for 4:10pm (PT) at the HSBC Arena. I'll be sitting courtside for the game. I'll share my thoughts and experiences in another blog after the game. I'll also try to snap more pictures if it's not against NCAA rules.
Don't forget that you can also follow me on Twitter (I fixed the bad link) for constant updates and pics throughout the day.
Have a great night! GO ZAGS!!!
UPDATE 3/19 6:50am (PT): Nothing really important to add...I just wanted to attach a few more links.
Our very own Chris Bach wrote up a preview of today's battle between Gonzaga and Florida State (it also includes my video preview of the game).
You can also click on the video player attached to the top of this story to hear from two Gonzaga fans who didn't have to travel at all to see their favorite team (we finally got a different version on our website).
I was also browsing KREM.com this morning and realized that we have our entire Bulldog Madness special posted online.
I can't tell you how excited I am that it's finally game day! We'll have live reports from Buffalo tonight on KREM 2 News at 10pm and 11pm. We'll also have blowout coverage of the game right here on KREM.com.