Not only have the second-round opponents already met earlier this season, a mix-up left them staying in the same hotel. A Buckeyes coach even dialed up Mark Few for advice on their first-round foe.
BOISE – Gonzaga and Ohio State can’t seem to get away from each other.
The teams, who played in the PK80 Invitational in November with the Zags winning 86-59, are staying at The Grove Hotel in downtown Boise. It’s rare for that to happen at an NCAA Tournament.
The highest-seeded team, No. 4 Gonzaga in this case, typically gets the more favorable accommodations at a tourney site, but an NCAA mix-up resulted in both being at the same location.
“It was too late (to change) when the arrangements were made Sunday night so it was fine,” GU athletic director Mike Roth said. “I rode down the elevator after I got done working out with (OSU coach) Chris Holtmann.”
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The teams were on different schedules for Thursday openers so there’s been little interaction between the players. Buckeyes forward Jae’Shawn Tate wasn’t aware the Zags were at the same hotel. The Zags and Buckeyes meet in the second round Saturday at 4:45 p.m., or about 30 minutes after the completion of Kentucky-Buffalo.
“We’ve seen a few coaches walking around, but I haven’t seen any of their players on the elevator,” Gonzaga freshman Corey Kispert said. “It probably wouldn’t be a very comfortable elevator ride. I don’t think any words would be said.”
Holtmann, however, was brushing up on first-round opponent South Dakota State on Monday night when he decided to dial up GU coach Mark Few.
The Zags defeated the Jackrabbits in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
“He was enjoying a beverage and a view of the mountains,” Holtmann said. “I said, ‘Man, what a life that is right there.’ I was quite envious at the time.
“It was about 9:30 or 10 our time. I was just trying to figure out how to guard South Dakota State and asked if he had any suggestions. We had a good conversation and you could tell he was pretty chatty. I said, ‘OK, I gotta go, I have to get back to work.’ ”
It wasn’t the first time Holtmann has called Few seeking advice. The two talked when Holtmann was considering leaving Butler for Ohio State.
“He’s obviously a guy a lot of people have reached out to and I wanted his feedback,” Holtmann said. “He gave me, as you’d expect, level-headed advice. He didn’t say to go or to stay. He just kind of gave me his thought process when situations come up.”
Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop has played in 32 games and only twice failed to reach double figures: Rutgers (season-low six points) and Gonzaga (seven points).
The versatile 6-foot-7 junior forward was a handful for the rest of OSU’s opponents. Bates-Diop was the Big Ten player of the year and earned some All-American honors after averaging 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds.
At 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, Bates-Diop can score from behind the arc (54 3-pointers), create off the bounce or go to work in the post. He showed all three aspects with 24 points and 12 rebounds – his 19th double-double – in Thursday’s win over South Dakota State.
Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams has the size, strength and athleticism to defend Bates-Diop. He did a nice job on the Buckeyes’ standout in the November meeting, but the Zags also had success when they went to a zone defense.