Soak it in, Salt Lake City.
Per CBS Sports college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb, this is about as good as it gets for us minus having a team from the Beehive State playing in the NCAA Tournament at EnergySolutions Arena.
"I think we’re going to have a full arena for all sessions, which is all you ever want," Gottlieb said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday afternoon. "No one wants to turn on the NCAA Tournament and see an empty arena and empty seats."
It helps that Salt Lake City got the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Add in No. 3-seeded New Mexico and Pac-12 powerhouse No. 6 Arizona, and the field in Utah will bring a dimension of competitiveness and atmosphere that other venues across the country cannot top.
"You don’t care who wins," Gottlieb said, "you want good games."
On paper, we have them.
Starting with the No. 1 Zags, the pre-eminent storyline of the pod here in the Salt Lake City, according to Gottlieb, is that the former little engine that could that is now the roaring locomotive on what looks to be a fast-track to a potential Final Four.
"This is kind of their moment," Gottlieb said.
After working with ESPN for 10 years, Gottlieb, who is in his first year working with CBS Sports, said the Bulldogs earning a No. 1 seed, playing so close to home in the first two rounds and in Southern California — should they advance — is the script they’ve been waiting for.
"Basically this is if Boise State football ever got a chance at a national championship," he said.
While Gonzaga, New Mexico and Arizona certainly bring the sexy narratives, Gottlieb said he’s talked to many coaches who have said this is the one NCAA Tournament in which any team can beat any opponent on any given day.
He pointed out Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark of Belmont as special players to keep an eye on, and praised Pittsburgh’s style of play, as well as Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall’s tremendous success in getting to the dance.
"You couldn’t have gotten a better field," he said of the field here in Utah.
Prodded to pick his team to emerge from this cluster, he said he’s wrestling between Gonzaga and New Mexico, adding that after seeing the Lobos win the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas last week, the world should be ready for UNM guard Tony Snell.
A packed house, filled with screaming fans representing schools all around the country is what makes Gottlieb loves his job.
"A full gym?" he said. "The best there is."
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