Mark Few Says Gonzaga Isn’t into “undefeated” Narratives

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With only three more wins, the top overall seed, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will become the eighth team to complete an undefeated national title season, and the first of the modern era.

Since the inception of the tournament in 1939, only San Francisco (1955-56), North Carolina (1956-57), UCLA (1963-64, 1966-67, 1971-72, 1972-73), and Indiana (1975-76) completed a campaign unblemished. We define modernity as post 1985, when the field expanded to its current format of 64 teams (with the first four play-in games making it a quasi-field of 68 much later).

It was pointed out to Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, after a blowout of Creighton in the sweet sixteen, how this team doesn’t get caught up in the undefeated narrative. The reporter then asked Few how and why Gonzaga plays so loose and free.

“Again, I’m just telling you, we’re not hung up on the undefeated thing at all,” Few responded.

“We’ve got to go undefeated from here on out. We’ve got to go 3-0 if we want to win the championship, which is — that’s been our goal all along. But nobody’s talking about the overall undefeated thing at all.

“You’re right. I think pressure’s on all these teams as you get farther and farther along with this, and the pressure comes from a lot of places. I think the biggest place it comes from is you don’t want it to end. Our team just absolutely — I mean, I bet, if you asked them, they wish they could play 25 more games together. So you just don’t want it to end.”

“But there’s a looseness about them because you’ve got Drew Timme on your team, for one, and Joel Ayayi has just an infectious enthusiasm about him.”

Timme has been described as the rug that ties the room together, and that’s a very accurate metaphor. It was then pointed out to Mark Few how his program reached the Elite 8 for the fifth time, and was in the sweet sixteen for the sixth straight time. The question was about how much more the Bulldogs’ latest glory further solidified just how far the program has truly come.

“I hope people realize just how hard it is,” Few responded.

“It’s literally the hardest thing we do in our sport is advancing in this tournament. Heck, just look at what happened this year. It’s just a great case in point here.

“You’ve got to be really good, and you’ve got to be good on that particular night. Obviously, it takes a talented team and a good team, but it also takes a little luck and then just total, incredible focus by your guys to be your best on that particular afternoon or evening.

“But it’s really hard, and I know we’ve done it quite a few years in a row now, but I can tell you, it’s hard. It’s hard to get to this tournament, and it’s hard to win games in it. It’s something that I’ll never, ever, ever take for granted.”

While Gonzaga is a “mid-major” in terms of institution size and the conference they play in, it’s been a very long time since anyone could actually apply that label to them.

mark few

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Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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