DENVER — After a dominating performance in pounding No. 6 seeded St. John's on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center, No. 11 Gonzaga is looking forward to its matchup with No. 3 BYU on Saturday (5:45 p.m., MT, CBS).
On the line is a berth in the Sweet 16 in the Southeast Regional next week in New Orleans.
The Bulldogs (25-9), who have been NCAA Tournament darlings for more than a decade, outrebounded the Red Storm, 43-20, shot 54 percent from the floor (including 9-for-15 from 3-point territory), and won easily, 86-71, to set up a showdown with the Cougars.
This contest will also serve as a sneak preview of coming attractions in the West Coast Conference, the longtime home of Gonzaga, and the future home of BYU, starting next season. It might be the birth of an intense hoops rivalry between the two schools.
Zags coach Mark Few said he respects, and can relate to, the Cougars and their star guard, Jimmer Fredette, who scored 32 points in BYU's opening-round 74-66 win over Wofford.
"They've had a phenomenal year, been a very captivating team to watch," Few said. "Obviously Jimmer is one of those once-in-a-lifetime guys when you're coaching. I had Adam (Morrison). There's some similarities there. I also think there's some similarities with his teammates. His teammates are really, really good, just like the kids we had playing with Adam.
"It takes a special group of teammates, you know, to play along with a guy who gets so many shots. They have that. They have some darn good players outside of Jimmer. He's a phenomenal player. I think all of you and America is getting to see just how good a Coach Dave Rose is. Those of us in the profession have known forever, not only how good a guy he is, what an incredible story it is with him going through the cancer scare and all. But also, he's a heck of a basketball coach, and has been for quite a while."
Bulldog guard Marquise Carter, who scored a career-high 24 points against St. John's, likes the matchup with BYU.
"I think we'll match up pretty good. I have faith in the coaches to just be able to tell us what we need to do," he said. "Throughout the year, we've been really good on listening to our coaches, executing everything we've been going over in film and practice. Like I said, I have faith in them. Just looking forward to being able to play the next game."