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Gonzaga Blog: Zags, Red Storm prepare for battle

by Tim Lewis, KREM 2 Sports Director


Posted on March 16, 2011 at 6:46 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 17 at 6:19 AM

The Gonzaga men's basketball team faces St. John's in the NCAA Tournament tomorrow (6:45pm/KREM 2), but there's plenty of work to be done before then. There's a busy day scheduled for the Bulldogs and Red Storm here in Denver. We'll (my photographer Brett Allbery (a new picture from yesterday) and me) will be with both teams every step of the way today.

Gonzaga has a closed practice at an off-site location (a local college or university) before they head to the Pepsi Center in the evening. The Bulldogs have a press conference from 5pm-5:15pm (PT), and then they have an open-to-the-public shootaround from 5:40pm-6:20pm. As we always do during the tournament, we'll stream Gonzaga's press conference live on KREM.com.

St. John's gets going earlier than the Zags. They also have a closed practice away from the Pepsi Center, and then they have a press conference from 3:30pm-3:45pm (PT). Again, we'll stream their presser live on our website. The Red Storm also have a shootaround from 4:10pm-4:50pm. It will be my first real look at the Johnnies (even though I've watched them on TV several times this year) before tomorrow's game. I'm excited to see what St. John's brings to the table (I'll let you know what I see when I update my blog later tonight).

UPDATE: This day got more wild and crazy than I expected, so this update is happening much later than I hoped. It wasn't just a busy day for the Bulldogs; it was full for all of the teams involved. I saw Richmond holding its press conference, Morehead State having its shootaround, brushed shoulders with Louisville's Peyton Siva and Rick Pitino as they took the floor at the Pepsi Center, and caught my first glimpse of BYU's Jimmer Fredette (the dude is impressive even in a shootaround).

I had to tend to my television duties during the media availability and shootaround for St. John's and Gonzaga, so I wasn't able to be really involved in either. The Red Storm players appeared to be soaking in the moment. Many of them were taking personal video of their teammates being interviewed in the locker room. This is their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2002. As for the Zags, it was about as quiet as I've seen their locker room at the Big Dance (probably because Robert Sacre was tending to radio duties in another room). I'm not sure what to make of that. I'd like to think it's extreme focus, but we'll find out soon enough. 

I'll be posting constant updates throughout the day on Twitter. Be sure to follow me @TLKREM2 for the latest (behind-the-scenes pictures, videos, updates, etc.) from Denver.

We didn't see any Gonzaga fans in Denver on Tuesday (we flew in yesterday afternoon), but I'm guessing a lot will roll in today. I figure there will be plenty of people around with the ease of travel. I know that one of our photographers (Steve Murphy...sorry...no picture) is making the drive from Spokane today (for leisure...not for work). There's nothing simple about that (it's a 16+ hour adventure). When I said "ease of travel" I obviously meant flying (about two hours).

UPDATE: GU fans were a lot harder to find than expected. We cruised many popular areas in Denver and couldn't find anyone. We cruised the 16th Street Mall, checked out Coors Field (I forgot to snap a picture), and the area around Invesco Field. We finally crossed paths with some of Gonzaga's faithful inside the Pepsi Center (1, 2) before the Bulldogs shootaround. I'm sure there will be plenty of blue and red in the seats tomorrow.

I'm a little surprised by the forecast for Denver today. They're calling for clear skies and a temperature near 70 degrees (another reason for fans to make the trek here). I'll take that every day of the week (even if I'm going to be cooped up in an arena most of the day). The last time I was here for the NCAA Tournament (with Washington State in 2008) it snowed. That wasn't very much fun.

We had a chance to get around the city last night. It was the calm before the storm, because today is going to get crazy. We hit the 16th Street Mall (a busy strip with restaurants and shops) to watch some basketball and grab a bite to eat. When we got back to the hotel, we stopped by the bar to have a drink. That's where we ran into Mark Few, Verne Lundquist, and Bill Raftery hanging out together (give me a second while I pick up those names I just dropped). It's not a bad trio to cross paths with.

UPDATE: There is all sorts of national media here now. I saw Woody Paige, Thom Brenneman, and Leslie Visser today. I'll just say that she looks completely different in person than she does on television (not in a good way). I almost didn't even recognize her. Aside from that, I had an unusual meal after we finally broke away from our work duties. That's pretty funny looking chicken sandwich, eh?

I want to remind you that we have uncut interviews with Robert Sacre, Steven Gray, David Stockton, and Mark Few from Selection Sunday on KREM.com. You can also watch a live interview I did with Marquise Carter by clicking here. If you're looking for something more recent, we talked to the Zags before they hit the road yesterday as well.

UPDATE: You can watch uncut press conference interviews with Mark Few, Steven Gray, and Robert Sacre from Wednesday by clicking here.

The NCAA Tournament started last night in Dayton, Ohio (UNC Asheville and Clemson were victorious), but brackets aren't due for the KREM.com March Mayhem Contest until Thursday morning. Join the fun by clicking here! It's your bracket against mine, so you should be in good shape to win a prize (I'm terrible at predicting winners).

That's all I have for now, but I'll be sure to post an update later tonight. Go Zags!