WHAT WE THINK - PREVIEWING WEEK NINE OF WCC PLAY
It is my personal belief that there is no such thing as a “fire marshal,’’ yet you hear the term used all the time when applied to sporting events and other occasions when people gather in buildings in mass numbers to be entertained or enlightened.
As in, “The fire marshal is not letting any more people in’’ or “The fire marshal said no sitting in the aisles.’’ If there is a “fire marshal,’’ how come he doesn’t wear a uniform with a patch on his shirt indicating “Fire Marshal’’ or carry a fire axe with him, ever ready to chop through a door or wall should Maximum Capacity be exceeded.
I mean, has anyone ever really seen a “fire marshal?’’ Show of hands, please.
But if such a person does exist and there is one in the Bay Area, he or she better hightail it out to McKeon Pavilion in Moraga for Saturday night’s GONZAGA-SAINT MARY’S game and keep the joint from becoming a sauna with sneakers, a steam bath with a shot clock.
With the No. 3 Zags in town, the game is a sellout. Furthermore, Saint Mary’s expects to sell standing-room tickets as well. Judging by how uncomfortably hot and stuffy it was when BYU came to McKeon on Jan. 17 and filled up the place, the potential is even greater for more global warming on a micro scale with Gonzaga as the hot-button attraction.
Fans would be well advised to stuff ice cubs inside their clothing, wrap iced towels around their heads and necks, bring battery-powered fans and even hack fronds off palm trees in order to stir the air in this Cauldron of Contra Costa County.
If only the action on the court equals the temperature in this this sectarian sweat lodge, this lose-five-pounds-just-sitting-on-your-butt gymnasium. Maybe fans should take the meaning of gymnasium literally, to wit, “school for naked exercise,’’ and leave their clothes in a giant pile outside the doors.
I bet ESPN2, carrying this 7 p.m. game, would love that for its highlights package.
OK, so it’s going to be hot. It’s also going to be the game of the year in the West Coast Conference, pitting mighty Gonzaga, 26-1 and 14-0 in conference, against second-place Saint Mary’s, 19-6 and 11-3. The Zags held the Gaels to a season-equaling low of 47 points in a 68-47 win last month in Spokane.
That brings up What We Think about this week’s slate of conference games on the penultimate week of the regular season.
- With the No. 13 jersey of former Gaels great Patty Mills to be retired in a halftime ceremony on Saturday, Saint Mary’s should be as fired up as the thermostat in McKeon. The Gaels need a strong showing against Gonzaga to build momentum for the last week of conference season before the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
One of the fans cheering for the Gaels will be Mills himself. The halftime ceremony coincides perfectly with his schedule with the San Antonio Spurs, who play at Golden State on Friday and at Utah on Monday night. “More importantly, I hope we can pull off a great win over the Zags,’’ Mills said on the Saint Mary’s web site.
- PEPPERDINE should be similarly motivated for its home games against SANTA CLARA on Thursday and SAN FRANCISCO on Saturday. The Waves (15-11, 8-7) are currently in fourth place, two games behind BYU (20-8, 10-5), a half-game in front of PORTLAND (16-10, 7-7) and one game clear of SAN DIEGO (14-13, 7-8). Who wants fourth?
Pep closes the regular season with three straight home games and needs one more victory to clinch its first winning season since 2005. With no seniors on its roster it went 5-4 on the road and is holding opponents to .273 shooting on 3-point shot attempts, fifth best in Division I.
- With Gonzaga in on Saturday, Portland represents a significant trap game for Saint Mary’s on Thursday. Coach Randy Bennett would be wise to not even utter the word “Gonzaga’’ until Friday. The Pilots have a little momentum going after home wins against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount last week to pull into fifth place in conference.
Even better for coach Eric Reveno’s team, the temperature inside McKeon should be much more comfortable on Thursday than it will be for Gonzaga two nights later. Did we mention it’s going to be as hot as (fill in your own analogy) on Saturday?
- Even though it has won 20 games thus far, BYU has not put together four consecutive wins at any point in 2014-15. The WCC’s third-place team will try for four in a row in a home game Thursday against San Diego, which defeated the Cougars 77-74 at the Slim Gym last month. That’s BYU’s only game this week. If coach Dave Rose’s team wants to hold onto third place, beating the Toreros is a must. BYU has been inconsistent at times this season, so winning four straight would be a significant step.
Mills, who had two terrific years in Moraga in 2007-08 and 2008-09, will be the third men’s basketball player and seventh athlete overall to have his jersey retired by the Gaels. His No. 13 jersey will join these worn by previous Gaels greats:
4 – Matthew Dellavedova, men’s basketball
9 – Tricia Dean, softball
11 – Herman Wedemeyer, football
15 – Anja Bordt, women’s basketball
31 – Tom Meschery, men’s basketball
49 – Tom Candiotti, baseball
“It is such a privilege that Saint Mary’s is retiring my number,’’ Mills said in a statement. “This is an unbelievable honor. To this day (McKeon Pavilion) is still one of my favorite places to play. I’m really excited to return to Moraga for the presentation.”
Even more Mills
Making a day of it in Moraga, Mills will take part in Saint Mary’s 38th annual car drawing prior to the Gonzaga game. At $150 per ticket, the drawing helps the school raise money for its charitable endeavors. The drawing takes place at 6:15 p.m., with the grand prize a 2015 Jeep Cherokee.
On top of the world
Want an inspirational read? Check out what former USF player Joel DeBortoli is up to these days. Hint: He’s surely one of the tallest people living in a country with the highest elevation in the world. The link on USFDons.com is below.
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If BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth turns in one more triple-double this season for a total of six, the WCC will have the men’s and women’s career leaders in this impressive category. Saint Mary’s Louella Tomlinson (2007-11) recorded seven in her career to tie the NCAA Division I women’s record. … As a conference, the WCC is No. 2 nationally in both field goal shooting percentage (.4495) and 3-point field goal percentage (.3630). … Of course, it helps to have players like USD’s Johnny Dee and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos in the conference. Dee leads Div. I in 3-point shots made with 330 while Pangos is third with 302.
A limited number of all-session passes to the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas March 5-10 are now available for sale online at WCCHoopsInVegas.com. All-session passes for the event at the Orleans Arena in the casino of the same name cost $175 for all nine men's games and all nine women's games, 18 games in all. Breaking it down, that's $9.72 per game. Further ticket information is available below: HERE or log on to WCChoopsInVegas.com.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.