If you missed all the college basketball going on this week thus far, you really missed out.
Three of the top four teams lost, including #1 ranked Indiana (Lost to Minnesota) and #3 ranked Duke (lost to Virginia). It also includes #4 ranked Michigan, who lost to Penn State. For the record, that is Penn State’s ONLY Big Ten Conference win thus far.
Something you might notice is #2 ranked Gonzaga is not in the group I listed above. On Thursday night, they were able to go into Provo, UT on Senior night, in front of nearly 20,000 fans and pull off a 70-65 victory over an inspired BYU team (isn’t every team inspired to beat Gonzaga though?).
Thanks to 19 points from the (you heard it here first) All-American, Kelly Olynyk, and 15 from Gary Bell Jr., the Zags held off a late-game surge by the Cougars to preserve their unblemished Conference record.
With these losses by Indiana, Duke, and Michigan, and assuming the Zags can beat Portland (11-19, 4-11 WCC) there is very little chance that any team will jump Gonzaga for the top ranking in the land. And as much as I dislike being the contrarian to my esteemed “colleague,” it is Gonzaga’s time.
One might be able to make a case that Gonzaga’s strength of schedule (SOS) is not that of Indiana or Michigan, and it shows in Joe Lunardi’s “Braketology.” Gonzaga’s SOS is 75, while Indiana’s is 24 and Michigan’s is 55. However, that’s why the Hoosiers and Wolverines, alike, can have twice as many losses and still be ranked above the Zags (before this week, at least).
The Zags have lost two games this year – an early season matchup against Illinois, and a buzzer-beater to Butler in Indianapolis. Both of those teams are in the top 50 RPI. They’ve won EVERYTHING ELSE. They crushed the likes of Oklahoma and Kansas State, they went to Stillwater and beat Oklahoma State, and they handled Saint Mary’s in both conference matchups (including a 17-point win in Moraga). This year, Gonzaga has beaten their conference foes by an average of 19 points. 19 POINTS!
As the regular season comes to an end, it is no longer about SOS or RPI or BPI or even ranking. It’s about who can win in the spotlight. And quite frankly, Gonzaga can play with any team out there.
They have a big man in Olynyk who has outside touch. Elias Harris is a guy who plays bigger than his 6’8” frame with a solid jump shot. They have exceptional guards in Kevin Pangos, Bell Jr., and David Stockton. They also have a number of guys in the bench who can contribute.
Sam Dower is a big man with inside finesse and the ability to knock down 20-footers. They also have Drew Barham – a guy who shoots .468 from behind the arc.
Gonzaga also has Hart. Sure they have “heart” as well, but the source of that heart is Mike Hart. Hart is from Portland, OR and walked on in 2008. He was not recruited by anyone. Now, he starts for one of the top teams in the land. A guy doesn’t get to where Hart is without unrelenting hustle and determination. I invite anyone to watch a Gonzaga game and follow Mike Hart around the court. I guarantee you’ll be tired just watching him.
It is now March, sports fans. It is time for bets, brackets, and buzzer-beaters. Who will be your pick to win it all? My pick will most likely be a team who hails from Spokane, Washington.
By now, I am sure most of you have heard the Minnesota Golden Gophers beat the #1 Indiana Hoosiers, last night at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. This has fans in Spokane getting really excited at the chance at having that “#1″ next to Gonzaga in Monday’s rankings. I am here to tell you Gonzaga not only doesn’t deserve to have the top ranking, but they won’t be sitting on top come Monday.
Let’s first start with the last time Indiana lost as the top ranked team in the land. They lost at Illinois, 74-72 and won at Ohio State, 81-68, before the next poll came out. At the time they held 58 of the 65 first place Associated Press votes. After the loss, there was a four-way split for the first place votes between Indiana (26), Duke (20), Miami (17) and Gonzaga (2). This will most likely be the case again. With Indiana holding all but one (Gonzaga) of the AP first place votes in the current poll. The votes will again be split between multiple teams come Monday, which will likely include: Indiana, Read the rest of this entry »