For many years now, Mark Few has scheduled an out of conference opponent to close out the season. So even though the Zags ended conference play on Saturday, tonight they will host the Longwood Lancers. Not familiar with Longwood University? Well neither was I until I Googled them. It turns out Longwood University is a small university in Virginia and they just made the transition to D-1 sports in 2007. The teams have competed independently until next year, when they will join the Big South Conference. Longwood is currently ranked 338 out of 345 in the RPI rankings. Longwood is probably getting paid a good sum of money to fly cross-country and get plastered on the floors of the McCarthy Athletic Center.
But Mark Few's intentions aren't to embarrass a team for no reason. The last home game of the year at Gonzaga has always been Senior Night, and no matter how far down the depth chart a basketball player may be, if you are a senior on Mark Few's team - you start. Many teams (if not all - everyone should) do this as well, and it is a fitting tribute to someone's impact on the team, which sometimes cannot be measured solely in points per games or what your three point percentage is. Basketball takes only five people to play, and most coaches operate at with a 10 man rotation at the very max, and that often leads to four or five players who are merely characters sitting on the bench to the average fan. I'm sure their teammates would think differently.
So this year on Senior Night, Gonzaga is graduating two members of its basketball class to the real world - Robert Sacre and Marquise Carter. Both are constant contributors to the team, sometimes one more than the other. This year there won't be any fans going wild for bench warmer #5 to start the game, but hopefully they will be going wild for Sacre and Carter, each of which has made a mark on the program in a different way.
Big Rob came in 2007 with a lot of promise, as most seven footers tend to in the college realm. Sacre chose the jersey number 00, an ode to another rather famous seven foot center known as Robert Parrish. He didn't average too many minutes his freshman year, and when it seemed time for him to truly crack into the rotation and play some big minutes, he was sidelined with an injury for his sophomore year.
In his red-shirt sophomore year, Sacre averaged 10.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks a game. He averaged a few more points a game his junior year and shot an astounding (considering his height) 82% from the free throw line. He currently sits 22nd on the all-time Gonzaga scoring list, behind Bill Wilson and ahead of Josh Heytvelt. He has second most career blocked shot total and is tied for the highest free throw percentage in a game at a perfect 10-10 (minimum 10 attempts).
This year, Sacre has seen a slight downturn in his overall stats. He isn't scoring as many points, hasn't blocked as many shots, and isn't pulling down as many rebounds like seven footers should. But a NBA team, most likely in the second round, will still probably draft him. This is because seven footers with the fancy footwork like Sacre don't come too often. He doesn't dunk it as often as he should, but he sure knows how to hit a five-foot jumper. His defense is solid and he can hold his own with the big boys for the most part.
Marquise Carter transferred from Three Rivers Community College after helping his team advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association title game. He came off the bench for most of his junior year until starting the final 12 games of the year. He hit a well timed career high 24 points against St John's in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament. He was named WCC Newcomer of the Year and MVP of the WCC Tournament after averaging a team-leading 14.5 points per game. This year, with the expected emergence of freshman Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos, Carter has seen a lot less playing time in the crowded backcourt.
Both players will not be considered the finest players to ever don a Zags jersey. Sacre has a maddening habit of disappearing for large stretches of games and forgetting that he is a seven foot, 260 pound, mass of post devastation. Carter plays well while on the court, but never has been able to get the minutes to truly showcase his potential. But both players were instrumental to the Zags continued success over the years they were at the school. Carter virtually single-handedly dragged the team through the WCC tournament last year when Gonzaga was anything but a solid bubble team to make the tournament and Sacre's defensive presence has stabilized the five spot for the past three years. There will be other good guards and centers to come through the program, and both players have left a positive mark in their time at Gonzaga.
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