BLOOMINGTON — Former Indiana guard Jim Crews, a member of IU’s perfect 1975-76 national championship team, said he plans to watch the Final Four on Saturday with his 90-year-old mother-in-law.
“She’s a huge Gonzaga fan for the last 20 years,” Crews said.
If Gonzaga wins the national championship on Monday to become the first undefeated men’s team since IU finished off a 32-0 season 45 years ago, Crews said he will tip his cap to the accomplishment.
“I couldn’t think of a better program to do it than Gonzaga, actually,” Crews said. “I don’t know (Gonzaga coach) Mark Few at all, but the job that they’ve done out there, and they’ve been so consistently good and he’s never gotten caught up in, you know …
“He doesn’t screw around with being happy. A lot of guys do. You know, he’s happy there, and I’m sure he’s had a zillion offers to leave, to probably make more money and whatever, more visibility and better time zone and all of that for college basketball, and he knows what he likes, and I admire that.”
Gonzaga (30-0) will begin that quest Saturday against UCLA (22-9) in its Final Four matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium (8:34 p.m., CBS).
“They are the best team,” Crews said. “That doesn’t mean they are going to win, but I think they are the best team.”
Few has tried to downplay the undefeated talk with his team, instead focusing on preparing for each game.
Asked how he would have felt if someone told him Gonzaga would be undefeated heading into the Final Four, Few responded: “I would have absolutely laughed. It’s just so hard to do in a normal season and then when you factor in absolutely no juice in an arena, any environment. We have arguably the best homecourt in all of America and to walk out there was obviously the hardest thing for me and our players, with really nobody in our building.”
Few said he has reached out to Kentucky coach John Calipari, the last coach to take a perfect team into the Final Four in 2015. That season, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Kentucky was upset by Wisconsin in the national semifinals.
“Coach Cal and I are good friends,” Few said. “I reached out to him. It’s just been mostly about — we haven’t spent any time on it at all. We just want to win this tournament. That’s all we care about.”
Gonzaga junior guard Andrew Nembhard said the season has been about striving to reach a high standard regardless of the opponent.
“We always talk about just being us,” Nembhard said. “We’re not too satisfied about winning a championship. What we do with each other and how we make each other better, that’s what we’re more satisfied with every day. So I don’t think we see too much pressure in it.
“Also, at this point, every team has to go undefeated now to win the tournament. So there’s not really pressure to keep that streak.”
Another member of IU’s 1975-76 championship team, forward Tom Abernethy, said he plans to watch Gonzaga on Saturday at his winter home in Bonita Springs, Florida.
“It will be fun to watch,” Abernethy said. “It will be interesting to see if these guys climb all the way to the top of the mountain and enjoy it.”
Abernethy said he hasn’t watched Gonzaga much this season, but what he has seen is impressive.
“They look like they’ve got at least five guys that should play in the league, for five or more years, which ironically is what we had. We had five of us that did the same thing, so I think they’ve got great players,” Abernethy said. “They’ve got a great coach. Coach Few is amazing.”