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Gonzaga turns attention to WCC Tournament after ‘incredible’ regular season

The postseason is here, but first this brief timeout from Gonzaga coach Mark Few.

Few isn’t one to go overboard with excessive praise, but this season’s squad drove him to it following an 86-76 win over Saint Mary’s last Saturday in the regular-season finale that capped a 29-2 regular season.

Reflecting on the first four months of the season, Few used words like “incredible,” “pleasantly surprised” and “wow.” The second-ranked Zags earned another title in arguably the West Coast Conference’s finest season. They’re positioned for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Their two-loss regular season matched the 2003-04, 2012-13, 2014-15 and 2018-19 teams. The 2016-17 squad was 29-1 entering the postseason.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a team that surprised me as much as this one did, pleasantly surprised,” Few said. “We don’t have lottery picks like Rui (Hachimura) and BC (Brandon Clarke), but they did it in pretty dominant fashion.

“The league has three teams in the top 30 in the NET (rankings). I was telling Randy (Bennett, Saint Mary’s coach) before the game, we’ve never had three teams locked into the tourney at this point of the season.”

Few and the top-seeded Zags have turned the page to the WCC Tournament, which begins in the semifinals Monday night at Orleans Arena.

The Zags could face No. 9 San Diego, No. 8 Loyola Marymount, No. 5 San Francisco or No. 4 Pacific, but the Tigers have the shortest path, with a bye into the quarterfinals.

Gonzaga’s postseason approach? No need to change now.

“They all did what they can do,” Few said. “That’s probably our greatest strength. It sounds corny, but our whole is probably better than the sum of our parts, and they realize that.”

“Offensively, we’re a lot more skilled and talented than I saw at the very beginning, and we share the ball,” junior wing Corey Kispert added. “Every game you look at the box score, multiple guys in double digits, different guys leading in scoring. It’s truly unselfish.”

Two wins in Las Vegas and Gonzaga can essentially lock up the top seed in the West – perhaps even the overall No. 1 seed if top-ranked Kansas stumbles – and play at the Spokane Arena in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

“Just make sure we win it, that’s the main thing on the agenda,” senior guard Admon Gilder said. “Whatever I need to do for this team in order to win, whether it’s defend, scoring, motivating my teammates, that’s the best thing I can do.”

Gonzaga’s lone conference loss was to No. 15 BYU. The Zags have a 61.9% chance of winning the WCC Tournament, according to KenPom.com. BYU is next at 27% with Saint Mary’s third at 8.7%.

“We owe BYU,” Gilder said. “We have to come ready and prepared. They beat us, but they didn’t get our best game.”

The Zags have reached 22 consecutive WCC Tournament title games, winning 16 championships. One of Gonzaga’s six losses came last year when Saint Mary’s pulled off a 60-47 upset.

“Teams are going to come at us,” said sophomore forward Filip Petrusev, who was named WCC Player of the Year earlier this week. “It’s probably going to be one of the three top teams, besides us (in GU’s opener).

“We know we didn’t win it last year, obviously, and I think we need to really bring that trophy back, because we know we’re the best team in the league.

“We’re going to bring it, for sure. It’s going to be very competitive, but if we play our way, we’ll be good.”

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