Vitale: West Virginia's mastermind? Beilein

Vitale: Bucknell's upset just one shocker

Vitale: Great way to start '05

Vitale: ACC, beware Duke (again)

Vitale: ACC excels, but don't forget MVC

Vitale: Howland on track at UCLA

Vitale: Iowa, Cincinnati quietly excel

Vitale: RPI change a wise move

Vitale: Christmas wish list

Vitale: Hodge among All-Versatile honorees

Vitale: Syracuse eyes title run

Vitale: Intrigue galore with Pitino, Tubby

Vitale: Arkansas gets Cupcake award

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UPDATE -- most recent games I guess the works... Maybe gonzaga is bullet point

I was thinking if you or he he added to it, and we led with, "Gonzaga had such a strong start, but they've had a tougher time in their own conference than against top-five teams" (or something along those lines) -- that sounds like an interesting angle, and we could move down the stuff about beating those teams in preconference ===

Jan. 5, 2005

Have you noticed how impressive Gonzaga has been lately?

Mark Few doesn't want to hear the term "mid major" any more and his Zags have been showing America that this program is for real once again.

For years, Gonzaga has been willing to play just about anybody, many of those challenges on the road or in so-called neutral site games. This is a program that has made six straight trips to the NCAA tournament, five under Few after he took over for Dan Monson when he went to Minnesota.

The Zags are 10-1 following its three-point win over Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City, not exactly a neutral site. The lone blemish was against #1 Illinois in Indianapolis at the Wooden Tradition. Gonzaga also has wins over Georgia Tech (at Las Vegas) and at home against Washington.

Gonzaga has become an elite program with its new home facility. There is basketball fever in Spokane.

This has been impressive in pre-conference play, and the WCC is not a cakewalk this season. Gonzaga has been efficient playing at a high level. This team is more than just Rony Turiaf, though he showed the heart of a champion playing through an ankle injury against the Cowboys.

Adam Morrison, a dynamic athlete, has become a super soph, averaging 21.5 ppg. while hitting 19-of-31 shots in the wins over Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech. J. P. Batista stepped off the bench and hit his first eight shots against the Cowboys. Derek Raivio is very underrated in the backcourt.

There is no doubt in my mind that Gonzaga can compete for a trip to Saint Louis and the Final Four. This group has the mental tenacity and toughness and the ability to make big plays at the right time. With Turiaf's ability in the lane, when performing his best, the Zags become difficult to defend.

Beating Washington, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State sends a message -- this team is outstanding. Gonzaga has also overcome adversity with Nathan Doudney lost for the season.

Mark Few is one of the premier coaches in America and his team has opened some eyes in recent weeks with big-time victories.

Dick Vitale coached the University of Detroit and the Pistons before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.