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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Tracking the Zags-Men: Sacramento Warm, Beautiful|
By Peter Tormey
The cold reality of March Madness lies dormant, however, hovering out of sight for now above the outward warmth and natural beauty. While hope still springs eternal for all teams in this 64-team tournament, six of the eight teams here and their respective entourages will leave Sacramento less happy than the two teams that advance from here to the Sweet 16 in San Jose March 22-23. The other six teams will leave forlorn, cast aside in the grueling and grinding NCAA Tournament that will continue its inexorable march on the Road to Atlanta and the Final Four.
Gonzaga’s Bulldogs, the No. 10 seed in San Jose/West Regional, are in town along with many fans, alumni and friends and aim to be one of four teams still dancin’ here when the final buzzer sounds Thursday night. The 23-10 Bulldogs, who captured the West Coast Conference’s automatic berth into the tournament by beating Santa Clara in the league tournament, take on the 20-10 Indiana Hoosiers of the Big 10 Conference, who received an at-large berth and the No. 7 seed in this regional. The game tips off Thursday at approximately 6:55 p.m. (Pacific Time), 30 minutes after the Weber State vs. UCLA game, which begins at 4:25 p.m.
The winner of the Gonzaga-Indiana game plays Saturday at 5:25 p.m. against the winner of the Weber State vs. UCLA game. Meantime, Gonzaga’s Inland Northwest neighbor, the Washington State Cougars, will battle Oral Roberts at 11:40 a.m. Thursday at Arco Arena with the winner playing at 2:55 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the Vanderbilt vs. George Washington contest, which tips off Thursday here at 2:10 p.m.
Gonzaga friends and fans hope that head Bulldog Mark Few, no stranger to these unruly machinations of March, will lead the way to San Jose. Few and two or three of the Zags will meet the media from 6-6:15 p.m. today (Wednesday) at Arco Arena, site of the Zags’ loser-out contest tomorrow (Thursday) night against the Hoosiers. A shoot-around for the Bulldogs is set for 6:40-7:20 p.m. today (Wednesday) at Arco Arena and is open to the public.
Many view Micah Downs, a 6-foot-8-inch sophomore transfer guard from the University of Kansas last season, as a key to the Zags’ postseason success. He has shown his talent and versatility after being given more playing time late in the season when he was asked to make up for the loss of Josh Heytvelt’s size down low. Downs said he is delighted to be at Gonzaga even though his former school is the No. 1 seed in the West Regional.
“No regrets at all,” Downs said. “I’ll take the 10 (seed) at Gonzaga any day.”
Downs said he has a good feeling about the Bulldogs’ chances.
“I’m excited to play. It’s really nice to stay on the West Coast and we’ll have more fans here than if we went to somewhere like New York or somewhere on the East Coast,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect. I think the intensity will be like the conference tournament but everyone is going to be dialed in a little bit more. I think everybody is just playing so well together and everyone is pretty confident. I think we can go far.”
Bees are Busy
The aptly named Sacramento Bee featured a large color photo of a blossoming plum tree on the cover of its Metro section this morning that included nothing less than a zoom-in shot of a bee flying through its rounds of pollination Tuesday, one week before spring, perhaps tricked into early duty by the unseasonably warm weather.
The mercury rose to a record high of 83 degrees here Tuesday, eclipsing the previous record of 82 set in 2004. Temps at the Sacramento Executive Airport reached 81 Tuesday, shattering the previous record of 78 in 1994. According to Holly Osborne, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, the normal high temperature here this time of year is 64 degrees, the Bee reported.
Forecasters predict temperatures will move closer to seasonable averages today with a high of 76 predicted for both Wednesday and Thursday. I must admit to drawing a few stares from people strolling through Capitol Park admiring the limbs of the orange bowing with their plump and perhaps over-ripe harvest.
“Gonzaga? Man, they’re my pick in the Tournament!” After some light repartee, he told me the west side of the building is now a museum and suggested I check out Capitol Park, the gorgeous grounds of the stately structure.
There are many interesting historical markers on those grounds. One person told me that every variety of tree that grows in California is represented on the grounds in this incredibly pleasant climate. No wonder Greater Sacramento has been cited as one of the five “most livable” regions in America.
On my walk, I spotted a larger-than-life statue of a famous Franciscan priest and its dedication read, “Dedicated to the memory of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784), the first Franciscan missionary to whom California owes an everlasting tribute – he brought civilization to our land and in deed and character he deserves a foremost place in the history of our State.”
Among the many other landmarks on the Capitol grounds was a grove of trees that, as saplings, had been transplanted from Southern battlefields in memory of the Union veterans of the Civil War. The grove was “presented to the State of California on May 1, 1897 by the ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic of California and Nevada,” its inscription read. The Grove was surely thriving.
All the while as I admired these landmarks of California’s history, a little brown squirrel seemed to be observing me. Friendlier than most squirrels, it nevertheless would not approach as closely as the generations of its kinfolk living on the grounds of Gonzaga University who seem tame as the family dog.
As I began to move on, the squirrel stood up on its back legs. Then, bidding adieu for now, the fuzzy critter scurried up a 50-foot palm tree in an instant and looked down on me as if to suggest, “Your Gonzaga squirrels can’t do this.”
True enough, my furry friend.