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Fresh off a dominant win, Gonzaga’s focus remains squarely ahead

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The goal: stay ready

NCAA Basketball: Norfolk State at Gonzaga Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Suggs’ strategy for the NCAA Tournament bubble experience is quite simple.

“If I get a little Chick-Fil-A, kick back, watch a little Criminal Minds, that’s pretty much a perfect day for me,” Gonzaga’s 6’4 point guard said.

Suggs added that the fast food has, so far, been his only request from outside the bubble. His team got a bowling ball and some pins, but there haven’t been any other unusual requests.

The Zags entered the 2020-21 season as the No. 1 team in the nation and that’s how they arrived in Indianapolis. They are only the fourth team in the last 40 years to stay in the No. 1 spot of the AP Poll through an entire season. All eyes are on top-seeded Gonzaga, but Suggs is trying to not think about that.

“I wake up, get breakfast, watch a little bit of film after breakfast. I just kind of relax,” he said about his daily routine. “One thing I’ve been trying to do is not overthink about the games.”

When the Zags first arrived at the bubble, they had time to relax and do fun activities like toss a football or engage in what head coach Mark Few described as a “roaring game of Catan” last Wednesday.

Few, a Naismith Coach of the Year Finalist, said that in his 32 years in this profession he has made a lot of friends, and some of those “very, very close friends” are playing in the tournament too.

When he has some free time, the Bulldogs coach watches his friends’ games. The players have their own friends from the AAU playing days and also keep track of those matchups. But the time for that is now mostly over. Few said now there is no more time to cheer on anybody but themselves.

“Now we are just basically in survival mode,” he said. “We are just watching film, resting, getting ready for practice, watching film again. Go to bed tonight, get up and get ready to play a game.”

Gonzaga got through the First Round with a 98-55 victory over the 16-seeded Norfolk State Spartans. The 98 points were a school record in an NCAA Tournament game. Corey Kispert led all scorers with 23 points, which is not surprising as he is the Bulldogs’ top scorer (19.3 points per game). But the Gonzaga offense is deep and sophomore Anton Watson reminded the Spartans of that when he put up 17 points by going 7-of-7 from the field.

It was a good win, but there was not much time to celebrate for the 27-0 Zags. The focus had to go immediately to resting and getting ready for the next game.

“I don’t think any of us got back to our room till probably 1 a.m. last night,” Few said. “We got film and practice today, film again and then kind of an early morning, we got a 2:40 p.m. game.”

Monday’s opponent is the 8 seed Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners are entering the matchup with a 16-10 overall record after a 72-68 win over Missouri in the First Round.

Few said it will be a quick turnaround but he thinks the most important thing on Sunday is to keep his guys fresh. He said practice would be light but scouting reports and film sessions would be heavy.