It's finally game day!
Gonzaga plays North Carolina at the FedEx Forum here in Memphis tonight in the Sweet 16. This city is more active today than it was yesterday, and I have a feeling it's going to be buzzing even more tonight as we near game time (Oklahoma and Syracuse play first...then GU and UNC get started a half-an-hour after that).
Here are a couple of storylines to watch:
Ty Lawson's toe: The North Carolina point guard hurt the big toe on his right foot a few weeks ago. The injury kept him out of the Tar Heels opening round game against Radford. He returned to play in their second round game against LSU (he scored 23 points). Lawson did not participate in the team's shoot around yesterday (even though he was suited up). UNC head coach Roy Williams says Lawson's toe is a six on a scale of one-to-ten.
Josh Heytvelt v. Tyler Hansbrough: This should be a battle for the ages. Heytvelt dominated Hansbrough in the first matchup in 2006 (Heytvelt scored 19 points; Hansbrough 9). Heytvelt has battled injuries and legal trouble since then...Hansbrough has become one of the greatest players in college basketball history. Heytvelt is healthy and ready to roll. Hansbrough draws more fouls than anyone in the country, so Josh MUST stay out of foul trouble. There is no one else who can bang inside with him (Austin Daye would be the only other option and he's a fouling machine).
The transition game: That's what all of the players (on both sides) said will be the key of the game. The Tar Heels told me yesterday that it's their goal to push the tempo. The Bulldogs said it's their goal to get back on defense better than they have all season. There is no doubt about it...both teams will score A LOT of points.
Some more behind the scenes stuff from Memphis...
We took everyone's recommendation (Jason Kadah, Chris from Pullman, the police officer I talked to on Beale Street, etc.) and ate at Rendezvous. The food was terrific (I had ribs again) and the atmosphere was just as cool. The restaurant is located down an alley and you have to walk downstairs to the basement. The Gonzaga basketball team was actually walking out (their hotel is right next door) while we were walking in. We first passed Demetri Goodson, Jeremy Pargo, and Robert Sacre. They all had good things to say. We then ran into Micah Downs and Andrew Sorenson. They also really enjoyed the food.
We then cruised back to Beale Street to check out the scene. It was not very crowded, but that's the way I usually prefer things. We went to a restaurant/bar called Silky O'Sullivan's. There were dueling pianos playing inside. It was a really cool scene.
The people around here love their Memphis Tigers as much as Spokane loves the Zags. Memphis played Missouri last night in the Sweet 16 and everyone around town was wearing their Tigers gear. It was pretty funny...I even saw some police officers standing in the doorway of a bar watching the end of the game. Everyone wanted to see what was going to happen. Unfortunately for Memphis fans...they lost.
We are about to venture over to Graceland in hopes of finding some Gonzaga fans there. The game still doesn't start for a few hours. I'll have a full report from Graceland on my next blog. Hopefully we'll be celebrating a Bulldogs victory!
Enjoy the game!
P.S. There are a lot more Gonzaga fans in town today than there were yesterday. It's good to see that people are showing up!