No. 11 Gonzaga relishes tougher competition

Gonzaga coach Mark Few is looking forward to the 11th-ranked Bulldogs playing against tougher competition in the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Fla.

First up for Gonzaga is Quinnipiac (0-2) on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time. After the first-round matchup with Bobcats, the Bulldogs will play the winner of the Seton Hall-Florida game. Both of those teams have received votes in the AP Top 25 poll.

No. 21 Iowa State, the only other ranked team in the AdvoCare Invitational, is on the opposite side of the bracket along with Stanford and Miami.

In games beyond the tournament, Gonzaga (3-0) will face the likes of Arizona, Washington and Tennessee. Akron, which has 11 consecutive 20-win seasons, is another nonconference opponent before the Christmas break.

“There's going to be four or five really good teams in Orlando,” Few said. “Florida is legit, Iowa State is legit. Seton Hall has everybody back except (Isaiah) Whitehead, which might help them just with shot selection.

“And Miami is big, long and athletic.”

Gonzaga's three victories are against Utah Valley, a short-handed San Diego State team and Bryant. Quinnipiac, coming off a nine-win season, is 0-2 with losses to Vermont and Columbia.

Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore, in his 10th season with Bobcats, has a past matching wits against Few and Gonzaga. He was an assistant for 13 seasons at Connecticut under Jim Calhoun.

Moore was assigned by Calhoun to compile the scouting report on Gonzaga in a 1999 Elite Eight matchup. Connecticut defeated Gonzaga 67-62. Few was an assistant under former coach Don Monson with the Bulldogs.

Moore said he recalls that the matchup with Gonzaga 18 seasons ago was “the most pressurized game that I've seen (Calhoun) go through.” The Huskies limited Gonzaga's top two scorers, Matt Santangelo and Richie Frahm, to 3-of-20 shooting from the field.

Coaching against Gonzaga now, Moore fears that Quinnipiac has “probably bitten off a little more than we can chew.”

“We haven't performed well in the first two games,” he said.

Moore is especially concerned about Gonzaga's skilled frontcourt that includes center Przemek Karnowski (7-1, 300 pounds) and power forwards Zach Collins (7-foot, 230 pounds), Johnathan Williams (6'9″ and 228) and Killian Tillie (6'9″ and 200).

Karnowski is the ninth Gonzaga player to score 1,000 points and grab 600 rebounds in a career. Collins and Tillie, both true freshmen, have combined to average 20.3 points and 13 rebounds. They are shooting 63 percent from the field.

“My concern is how they can impact the game with their size,” Moore said of Gonzaga's four frontcourt players. “We'll try to shorten the game as best we can and try to do a good job on the boards.”

Quinnipiac's top rebounder is 6-1 guard Reggie Oliver, who averages 6 a game. The Bobcats have two players at 6-foot, nine-inch, including power forward Chaise Daniels, who averages 12.5 points and 4.5 rebounds a game.

Gonzaga has captured the title of this tournament twice in 2008 and 2012 when it was called the Old Spice Classic. In their last six Thanksgiving tournaments, the Bulldogs are 17-2.

“You get an NCAA tournament feel, playing back-to-back, teams from a bunch of different conferences,” Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss said. “So, it's a good test for us.”