Gonzaga’s 4-5 start raising questions

Gonzaga is 4-5, the worst record in coach Mark Few’s dozen years

at the helm and the team’s worst opening since the 1989-90 squad

posted the same mark.

Four of Gonzaga’s losses are to teams ranked in the Top 25. With

games coming up against No. 9 Baylor, Xavier, Oklahoma State, Wake

Forest and No. 18 Memphis, even Few is beginning to wonder whether

the tough non-conference scheduling has gone too far.

”The schedule is just beating us up and really taking its toll,

but we have to respond,” Few said.

Because they play in the lightly regarded West Coast Conference,

the Zags have retained their status as a national power for the

past decade by playing a murderer’s row of top opponents during the

nonconference season. The most ranked opponents Gonzaga has played

in a year was seven during the 2006-07 season.

The losing has taken a toll. Gonzaga was ranked as high as No.

11 early in the season but is no longer receiving Top 25 votes.

The Zags’ five losses have been to No. 6 Kansas State, No. 11

San Diego State, No. 12 Illinois, No. 24 Notre Dame and unranked

Washington State (7-1), which has the best record in the Pac-10.

They have lost three games in a row.

”We’ve got to keep our heads up,” center Robert Sacre said.

”It’s a long season.”

Players come to Gonzaga for the chance to play this type of

schedule, Sacre said.

”The coach trusts us,” Sacre said. ”The schedule is for what

he thinks this team could be.”

Conventional wisdom is that the Zags will still win the WCC –

they are 64-6 the past five seasons and have won 10 straight

regular-season titles – and reach a 13th consecutive NCAA


But their run of 13 straight 20-win seasons is in jeopardy.

In addition to the tough schedule, the Zags have been dogged by

lousy defense, uneven guard play and a lingering Achilles’ injury

to forward Elias Harris that has limited the NBA prospect to 10

points and four rebounds per game. As a freshman last year, he

averaged 15 points and seven rebounds.

Three-pointers are also hurting the Zags, who are giving up nine

per game.

They are averaging 16 turnovers per game, three more than last

year. They had 25 turnovers in the loss to Washington State.

Most of the losses have been close, with short slumps putting

Gonzaga in a hole.

”We have three- or four-minute lapses with total defensive

breakdowns that lead to easy baskets, and that affects our offense

a little bit,” Few said. ”Before you know it, against these good

teams, you are down 10 or 12 points.”

Kelly Olynyk, a 7-foot forward, is struggling, averaging only

seven points per game. Starting point guard Demitri Goodson is

averaging only three assists and five points per game.

Steven Gray, the only senior, has played well as their top

offensive weapon, averaging 18 points per game. Sacre is averaging

nearly 12 points and 7 1/2 rebounds.

The Zags have shown some fire. At Notre Dame on Saturday, they

were down by 14 in the second half before rallying to trail by only

two in the final 13 seconds. But the Irish made free throws and

time ran out.

Harris had one of his best games of the season, scoring 19

points. He doesn’t think it is time to panic.

”We’ve played one of the hardest schedules in the nation this

year,” Harris said. ”I’m pretty sure if other teams played the

same schedule, they’d be in the same situation probably right