ROUNDBALL DAILY

Grand Canyon earns more high-major praise, this time from Arizona’s Sean Miller

Grand Canyon forward Oscar Frayer (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Grand Canyon forward Oscar Frayer (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Grand Canyon University continues to receive the kind of breathless, awe-inspired reviews that the actual Grand Canyon does.

After the Antelopes put Louisville through the ringer at home a few weeks ago, leading midway through the second half before succumbing, 79-70, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said the crowd at GCU Arena was the toughest he’d ever faced in his 40-plus years of coaching:

“Duke and Kentucky have nothing on this crowd,” Pitino said.

He also called senior guard DeWayne Russell‘s night “the best guard performance I’ve ever seen,” so maybe he was feeling a little wistful. Then again, Russell did score 42 points on the Cards that night.

But on Wednesday night, GCU received another piece of high praise, this time from Arizona’s Sean Miller, after the Wildcats held off the ‘Lopes, 64-54, in Tucson.

“In my eight years, I’ve never seen a student section in McKale filled with the visitors. They had a whole section,” Miller added. “You could hear them cheering. You can tell they have a great spirit about what they’re doing.”

It is unusual for a school with a program as young as Grand Canyon’s to have such passionate fans who are willing to travel and buy up an entire opposing student section’s worth of tickets just to watch their team play. But then again, nothing is ‘usual’ about Grand Canyon.

The Antelopes, who are making the transition to Division 1, won’t even eligible for the NCAA Tournament until next year, but they’ve already established themselves as one of the best teams in the (albeit decimated) WAC.

GCU went 27-7 last year, beat San Diego State (which they did again this year), and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIT.

They’ve got a sparkling, brand new 7,000-seat arena and are coached by former NBA star Dan Majerle, who, incidentally, is the greatest player in ‘NBA Jam’ history. (Just saying).

This is a program on the fast-track to Gonzaga-like success at the mid-major level, and based on the way they’ve played this season, it might come even sooner than expected.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.