Gonzaga coach Mark Few is built more like a distance runner than a former basketball player, so perhaps it was fitting he compared what his top-ranked Bulldogs have accomplished thus far to someone running in a miler.
"It's hard to be the front-runner and lead the mile all four laps," Few said. "Everybody's gunning for you."
That's nothing new for the Bulldogs (24-0 overall), who will face Saint Mary's on Monday night in the West Coast Conference semifinals at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The Gaels (14-8) have been a familiar foe for Gonzaga in the WCC tournament. The teams have often matched up in the title game, with the Bulldogs winning eight titles and Saint Mary's three since the tourney moved to Las Vegas in 2009.
Fourth-seeded Saint Mary's defeated No. 5-seed Loyola Marymount 52-47 Saturday night in the quarterfinals, with Logan Johnson scoring 25 points and Tommy Kuhse adding 12.
Both teams shot less than 40 percent from the field and they combined to make just 5 of 31 3-point attempts.
"We knew we were going to have to really guard and rebound," Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. "We're a little grindy, so our games can get grindy and so can some other teams in our league, and Loyola would be one of them that can make it hard to score."
Gonzaga swept the Gaels during the regular season, winning 73-59 in Moraga, Calif., and 87-65 in Spokane.
The Bulldogs average an NCAA Division I-leading 92.7 points per game, more than seven points better than anyone else. They're led by guard Corey Kispert (19.5 points per game), forward Drew Timme (18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds) and guard Jalen Suggs (13.9 points, 4.5 assists), who are all among the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, which goes to the national player of the year.
Gonzaga earned a bye into the WCC semifinals and have had nine days off entering Monday's game.
"This is just a time for us to continually get better behind closed doors and put the work in," said Suggs, a freshman. "Just working on going into every day and getting one percent better until we step on the floor the next time."
Added Kispert, a senior: "It's a good period of rest for all of us and kind of recharge the batteries for the big final push. Really, we have to look in the mirror and nitpick our game personally and as a team. We have to get better on the glass, rebounding, get better defensively as a team, just little things here and there.
"It's really nice because practices aren't really focused on the other team and what they do. It's all about us. It leads to a lot of competition."
The Zags are trying to become the fifth team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since Indiana completed the last perfect championship season in 1975-76.
"It's not going to be easy," Few said. "The conference tournament just amps up several notches here as teams are playing for their lives now to survive and play in the greatest sporting event in the world."
--Field Level Media