By Peter Tormey
SALT LAKE CITY — Junior guard David Stockton, who grew up here, aims to help the nation’s No. 1-ranked Gonzaga University Bulldogs beat Southern University in a second-round game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament that begins at 2:10 p.m. (MDT; 1:10 p.m. PDT) in the EnergySolutions Arena.
Gonzaga (31-2) is the top seed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament. The (23-9) Jaguars, from Baton Rouge, La., are a No. 16-seed. The winner advances to play Saturday against the winner of today’s Pittsburgh vs. Wichita State game (TBA).
Stockton’s father John, who also starred for Gonzaga, is well known here due to his NBA Hall-of-Fame career for the Utah Jazz.
“I can’t wait,” David Stockton said. “It’s just an amazing experience to go back and play where my dad did.”
The Zags won the West Coast Conference with a 16-0 record and captured the WCC Tournament to earn their 15th-straight NCAA Tournament bid and the Zags 16th appearance overall. This season also marks Gonzaga’s first No. 1 ranking (in both polls, Associated Press and USA Today), first 30-win season and first top seed in the tournament.
David Stockton offered a few thoughts on what this Gonzaga team special.
“It’s such a close-knit group, focused on the goal and just a very tough, tough group of individuals,” he said. “You’re not going to let the guy next to you down.”
Stockton said he enjoys providing the Zags with added spark often in critical situations and hopes to help even more today.
“One thing I can do is watch and see what the team needs and go and provide that on the court. I’m just excited for that opportunity,” he said.
Southern beat Prairie View on Saturday to earn the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship and the league’s automatic NCAA berth.
Few Nominated for Naismith Men’s College Coach of Year
Gonzaga Coach Mark Few, the WCC Coach of the Year, was named one of four finalists for the 2013 Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year award, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Wednesday. The other finalists were Saint Louis University interim coach Jim Crews, University of Miami’s Jim Larranaga and Georgetown University’s John Thompson III. The finalists were determined by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, which based its criteria on the coaches’ performances to this point in the 2013 men’s college basketball season. The Coach of the Year will be announced and honored April 7 in Atlanta.
For the third consecutive week, the Zags remained No. 1 in the nation in the final Top 25 Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ polls of the season released Monday; Gonzaga received 45 first-place votes in the AP poll, off from 54 the week prior, and 30 of 31 first-place votes in the USA Today poll. Gonzaga is the first team from a non-Bowl Championship Series conference to finish No. 1 in the final poll since Massachusetts of the Atlantic 10 in 1996.