Seattle sports may be currently enduring, uh, let's call it a slump—but did you know that Washington state is home to the best men's college basketball team in the country? Number one (in multiple national polls) Gonzaga faces No. 2 UCLA in Spokane on Tuesday, then appears in Seattle on December 4 to play at Climate Pledge Arena. Sure, Seattle may have a few hometown Division I teams, like the University of Washington and Seattle University, but that doesn't mean we can't claim Gonzaga too.
The Zags have been runner-up in the national championship game twice in the last five years, but their early season dominance suggests (maybe? hopefully?) this is finally their year. Now is the time to become a bandwagon fan, folks. Here's what you need to know.
Locate Gonzaga on a Map
Yeah you should probably get this one sorted out before you start face-painting. Gonzaga University is a private college in Spokane, its campus just across the Spokane River from downtown. Founded by priests, it's still a Jesuit institution. Oh, and the name comes from St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a sixteenth century Italian saint who died of the plague.
Know Your Gonzaga Basketball Stars
Here's who you need to know: Power forward Drew Timme was on last year's almost-the-champions team, scoring 25 points in the Final Four against UCLA (aka Tuesday's big opponent). He returned for his junior year, not always a guarantee for star players these days. (Look for the dude with facial hair; last year the 'stache was very Led Zeppelin roadie, these days it's more aspiring Brooklyn podcaster.)
He was joined by freshman center Chet Holmgren, who you can spot by the fact that he's seven foot tall, so likely the tallest guy on the court. After already racking up tons of Player of the Year awards as a high schooler in Minnesota, he was the number one college basketball recruit this year. (The number four student, Seattle local Paolo Banchero from O'Dea High School, went to Duke.)
The third guy to look for: Senior Andrew Nembhard, who also kicked ass in last year's near-championship run. He went to University of Florida before transferring to Gonzaga, which we can forgive since he's from Canada and probably just needed a little sun.
Other Important Gonzaga Basketball Facts
You know the school takes sports seriously when its fandom has its own name: Here, it's the Kennel Club. (It's actually an official organization with membership dues and everything.) The name comes from the Gonzaga mascot, the Bulldogs. Favorite song: AC/DC's "Thunderstruck"; hopefully no one filled in the Jesuit priests about how the lyrics extol the wonders of dancing girls who "gave a good time."
Where To Watch Gonzaga Basketball in Seattle
Come December 4, the Zags will be at Climate Pledge Arena against Alabama, the first college basketball game played in the refurbished arena. Gonzaga brands its westside game the Battle in Seattle, but it hasn't been held since 2015. Otherwise, the Dock Sports Bar and Grill in Fremont is known as a Gonzaga bar (and it's where you'll find the local alumni chapter at game time).