SPOKANE, Wash. -- Gonzaga is the top program in the West
Coast Conference. That doesn't mean the league's other teams have
to like it.
San Francisco coach Jessie Evans complained Tuesday about the
home-court advantage the Zags will have in this weekend's
conference tournament at McCarthey Athletic Center. He also said
that referees are intimidated by the raucous sellout crowds at
Evans was apparently referring to his team's free-throw deficit
in Monday night's last-second 75-72 loss at Gonzaga. The Dons were
3-for-7 from the line, while Gonzaga was 18-of-23.
"The stats don't lie," Evans said during a conference call.
"That's been the case all along. I'm saying things publicly that
the other coaches feel.
"It's unfortunate that officiating gets intimidated a little
bit," Evans said.
Evans also complained about having to travel to Gonzaga, which
is hosting the tournament for the first time.
He thought the tournament should be held at a neutral site,
which Evans defined as San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego,
where six of the eight WCC teams are based.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few said criticizing the officials hurts the
integrity of basketball.
"I don't think guys should ever say that," Few said. "They
are questioning the integrity of the game of basketball,
questioning the integrity of officials."
In 14 WCC games this year, Gonzaga made more free throws (268)
than its opponents attempted (248). The Bulldogs shot nearly 100
more free throws (346) than their opponents, making 77 percent of
Few said the discrepancy is because of the Zags' aggressiveness
on offense, which features J.P. Batista in the post and Adam Morrison slashing to the basket. It creates contact that often
leads to fouls.
The comments from Evans exposed some raw nerves in the WCC,
which Gonzaga has owned for the past decade. The league of small,
religiously affiliated private colleges has three teams in the San
Francisco Bay area, two in the Los Angeles area, one in San Diego
and one in Portland, Ore.
Spokane is the smallest and most remote market, but easily the
Few is 89-9 in WCC games in his seven years, and the Zags have
won a record six straight league titles and had the last six
conference players of the year, including Morrison this season. The
Zags are 40-2 in the league the past three years, twice going
undefeated through the conference.
Gonzaga also leads the nation with 38 straight home wins and has
won 23 consecutive WCC games dating to last season.
The league decides where the tournament will be in advance of
the season, and Gonzaga has lobbied for years that it is unfair
that the Zags win the league title and then have to travel to other
gyms for the tournament.
With the opening of the 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center
last year, the largest arena in the league and a constant sellout,
WCC officials finally relented. Tickets for the league tournament
were gobbled up by Gonzaga fans.
Pepperdine coach Paul Westphal said the Zags deserve the event.
"They have built the nicest building in the conference and had
the most successful program," Westphal said. "They are long past
their turn to host."
Dick Davey of Santa Clara said the enthusiastic crowds in
Spokane also energize opposing teams.
"It creates a lot of vigor for the visiting team," Davey said.