The Cheap Seats with Steve Cameron: Now we learn about No. 1 seed and Tillie’s health

Print Article

Gonzaga's Killian Tillie reacts after sinking a three-point basket during the first half of a West Coast Conference tournament NCAA college basketball game against San Francisco, Monday, March 5, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

You probably figured this out on your own, but…

Gonzaga’s run in the NCAA tournament begins tonight.

Yes, yes.

I know.

It’s the WCC tournament down in Las Vegas that starts this evening.

But make no mistake: The Zags’ performance down the street from Celine Dion and David Copperfield has everything to do with what the NCAA selection committee decides to do with them.

Gonzaga is sitting on a No. 1 seed at the moment, presumably headed for games in the West Region.

Achieving that goal would be handy.

There’s no margin for error, though, considering what the committee members think of the WCC in general.

Even though the conference has had its best year in ages — ranked No. 8 overall by hoops guru Ken Pomeroy — the old boys on the committee have watched the Zags run through the conference with an average winning margin of 27 points.

And they think…

Those guys are still a bunch of creampuffs.

THE BIGGEST lie in history is the statement, repeated every year, that past performances — the regular season and in the tournament — are not considered in either seeding or inclusion in the NCAA field.

That’s nonsense.

The Zags’ record of advancing in 10 straight tournaments (only Kansas has matched that mark) and nearly winning the title game two years ago can’t just disappear from people’s minds.

They know.

The Eastern half of the country, however, doesn’t remember so well.

To folks in the ACC neighborhood, Gonzaga should be lucky to grab a No. 2 seed.

Or maybe something below that.

The committee, meanwhile, is caught between that notion of a weak WCC and Gonzaga’s track record of playing up to its seeding.

The tiebreaker?

Can the Zags finish their local business by winning the WCC tournament?

At times in the past, they’ve struggled in the semifinals, and you wonder about tonight — nine days off against a hot Pepperdine team that has strung together enough upsets to climb from the No. 8 seed to this duel with Gonzaga.

Frankly, I wouldn’t take this game or the final — assuming the Zags make it, likely against Saint Mary’s — for granted.

Yes, the Zags are better than anyone in the conference.

But Pepperdine is on fire and Saint Mary’s has been improving every week.

Upsets happen.

WHILE WE wonder about the conference tournament and whether or not Gonzaga can hang on to its No. 1 seed, another large question is hanging over the proceedings tonight.

Will we see Killian Tillie in action?

The perfect scenario for the Zags would be Tillie — his partially torn foot ligament healed just enough — getting game time tonight and Tuesday in Vegas.

The Zags would be a different animal in the NCAA tournament if Tillie is available to give them a bit more presence on the boards against some teams — and especially if he’s there should Brandon Clarke get in foul trouble in a tightly called game.

Clarke has been prone to that, with all due respect to Filip Petrusev and Jeremy Jones, there is a significant upgrade in the paint if Tillie can provide a few minutes here and there.

The Frenchman has been involved in team warmups prior to the last two road games, and he’s been going hard in practice.

Coach Mark Few openly asked for prayers that Tillie would be back for the tournament.

Few didn’t specify which tournament.

But tonight would be worth a lot of lit candles.

Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns for The Press appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He also contributes the “Zags Tracker” package on Gonzaga basketball each Tuesday, although this week’s Zags column will run on Thursday.

Facebook: Steve Cameron

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA


Print Article

Read More Sports


November 22, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press With apologies to Neil Diamond, it was only a warm August night when players and coaches for Coeur d’Alene and Rigby walked off the football field after the Vikings held off the visiting Trojans for ...


Read More


November 22, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Five weeks into the season, the Coeur d’Alene Vikings defensive crew knew something needed to change. The Vikings had given up 120 points in their first four games, and in their fifth, they allowed ...


Read More

THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: This time, Zags avoid getting hit

November 22, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” —Winston Churchill OK, we can safely assume that Sir Winston was not referring to college basketball when he uttered those fa...


Read More

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Vikings a winner in Symons’ debut as coach

November 22, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press RATHDRUM — Junior Jaelyn Brainard-Adams hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 19 points, and the Coeur d’Alene Vikings were a winner in Nicole Symons’ debut as head coach, 85-58 ...


Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2019 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy