During CBS Sports' annual Selection Sunday show yesterday, the 24-9 Gonzaga Bulldogs were awarded the 11th seed in the Southeast Regional. They will face the sixth-seeded St. John's Red Storm in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this Thursday on CBS at 9:45 p.m. ET.
I spoke with Ronny Turiaf, who played in Spokane from 2001 to 2005 averaging 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds, to get the scoop on this year's Bulldog squad.
On the team: "Well, first and foremost, I want to say that I'm proud of those guys. The way they battled through adversity throughout the season, where everybody just shot them down, called them dead and called them a whole bunch of names, saying the preseason schedule was too tough. Yes it was, but we still managed to beat opponents and still managed to weather the storm and follow through with it and finish on a high note by beating Saint Mary's at Saint Mary's [89-85 in overtime on February 24] for a share of the conference title [with an 11-3 record], and beating again a Saint Mary's team in the West Coast Conference tournament final [75-63 on March 7]. It's not an easy thing to do to beat a team twice in such a short period of time, so I'm very happy. I can't wait to see if they can make some damage in the tournament."
On Gonzaga making their 13th straight NCAA Tournament appearance: "We are in company of a lot of high-ranked programs. They can talk as bad as they want about the West Coast Conference or whatever, but we still have to go and get those games when the other team is shooting for us every single game."
On NBA legend John Stockton's son, David, playing well as a freshman: "It's awesome. It's priceless. He brought a spark to this team with his feistiness, with his ability to see the floor, to steal balls, to definitely rebound for his size and be able to spread the floor by scoring threes. He's definitely been a spark for us in the second half of the season -- and that's why you see him making plays down the stretch. I guess he has an advantage when you have an All-Star top-50 player's abilities and genes."
Turiaf's teammate, Toney Douglas, who played college ball at Florida State from 2006 to 2009 averaging 16.7 points, was surprised to hear about his Seminoles' 10th seed in the Southwest Regional.
"Oh, for real? I guess it's pretty good," said Douglas, whose former team will face the seventh-seeded Texas A&M Aggies this Friday on TBS at 4:10 p.m. ET. "I haven't really, really looked at college teams like that because I've been so busy. Hopefully they'll win."
Douglas, who was busy starting in Chauncey Billups' six-game absence, said this about his favorite tournament memory: "Just playing in it. Our first game [in the first round against Wisconsin in 2009, which they lost 61-59], I'll always remember that moment. It was a great moment."
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