DENVER — Gonzaga is a basketball program fueled by playing a particular card out of the deck.
You listen to 'Zags players and there's a familiar ring and tone, talking points. It centers around respect. It is like "us against the world" or "nobody gives us a chance" or "we don't get the respect we deserve" or "we are going to prove we belong."
When people mention Jimmer Fredette, Zag players smile. They like the chance to prove themselves in prime time.
It's understandable rhetoric from a national-caliber program from the little West Coast Conference located in the northern boundaries of the Pac-10, which, like most mid-majors, fights the non-BCS label, argues about national rankings and seedings and reminds folks how Gonzaga has four Sweet 16 appearances.
Today, a win over BYU (31-4) will bring Gonzaga (25-9) its fifth. Nothing says respect like a No. 11 taking down a No. 3 seed.
"Well, I'm just kind of sick of people doubting us all year," said Gonzaga's 7-0 junior center, Robert Sacre.
"You think about it, people have been doubting us all year and they haven't really seen our true look. We showed them (against St. John's) how we can really play. There's more to come."
'Zags coach Mark Few is trying to keep his players in the present. Obviously, a win over BYU would elevate his program even higher than it is in the minds of many.
"We have an opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16 tomorrow," Few said. "We need to take full advantage of it and play the best game of the year.
"I'm not the kind of guy that looks for validation or anything like that. I think our success speaks for itself."
Few called BYU a team that will change the WCC dramatically next season.
"It adds another Top 25 school to it. It gives us another school much like ourselves with a national profile. I think it probably across the country enlightens some people to the level of play that's in our league. I think people will probably look at it as a three-bid potential league year in and year out."3 comments on this story
ZAG TRACKS: Gonzaga's last loss came against Memphis on Feb. 5, by a 62-58 score at home. ... The 'Zags have a 10-game win streak with the closest game an overtime win at St. Mary's on Feb. 24. ...
Six times this season, Gonzaga has made double-digit 3-pointers, with the highest in the season-opener (13) against Southern. ... Conversely, BYU has had 10 games with double-digit 3s, with 14 at UNLV and 15 at Air Force. ... Few's team has a respectable 48 percent (10th in NCAA) overall shooting percentage for the season. ... This is the first meeting in basketball between the 'Zags and Cougs. Gonzaga is 16-13 overall in the NCAA tournament and was a No. 8 seed last year in beating Florida State before losing to No. 1 West Regional seed Syracuse 87-65 . ... Gonzaga advanced to the Elite Eight in 1999, its deepest run to date.