Mar 2, 2013, 7:04 PM EST
Following No. 1 Indiana’s loss to Minnesota on Tuesday, and Virginia’s big upset of No. 3 Duke, No. 2 Gonzaga appears poised to seize the school’s first No. 1 ranking ever. The questions began to circulate immediately: Do they belong on top? Can they handle the pressure?
The first step in quieting the naysayers happened today: Gonzaga pounded Portland 81-52. It’s not a particularly impressive win in context of the weakness of the West Coast Conference this season, but it’s mega-impressive in the larger context of the top five this season. Indiana is the latest No. 1 team to suffer a surprising loss, but hardly the first. So, we’ll not scoff at the Bulldogs for handling the pressure of that next win, which was absolutely required for anyone to even think of naming them No. 1 next week.
Given that the WCC is providing no challenge for the Zags this year, the deeper question remains: can they win in the Big Dance? Can they make the Final Four? Anything less, at this point, would be an immense letdown for a program that has been knocking on the door for more than a decade.
There are a couple of ways to answer this question. One is the eyeball test. We can all look at what Gonzaga puts on the floor, think back to prior Final Four participants, and say “do they have what it takes?”
The Zags are lousy with upperclassmen, and those upperclassmen are key contributors. Kelly Olynyk, a junior, has put himself in the conversation alongside Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Duke’s Mason Plumlee when the best big men in the nation are discussed. By his side are seniors Elias Harris and Guy Lanrdy Edi and junior Sam Dower. Even freshman Przemek Karnowski has had his moments, which gives Gonzaga a distinctive size plus depth advantage over most opponents they face. The backcourt is a bit younger, featuring sophomores Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr., but legacy junior David Stockton brings some experience to the table.
That’s a team with experience, size, shooters, quality point guard play and a brilliant coach in Mark Few. The eyeball test plays out in their favor.
Second, we can do the math. Tempo-free statistics were developed in hopes of providing predictive metrics with a little science behind them. Per Kenpom.com, Gonzaga has the nation’s third-best adjusted offense, and 23rd-best adjusted defense. In this context, “adjusted” means strength of schedule has been factored in. Those two numbers – combined, adjusted, folded and spun in a centrifuge – put the Zags at No. 4 in the Kenpom rankings, behind Florida, Indiana and Louisville. In fact, Gonzaga is sort of a reverse-Louisville, with the Cards showing the single-digit defensive ranking and double-digits in offense.
So, math also makes them one of the top four teams in America.
Finally, there’s always superstition. Look at Gonzaga’s two losses: When Illinois beat the Bulldogs on December 8, they were ranked No. 13 in the nation. When Gonzaga went into Indianapolis and lost a thriller in Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler was ranked No. 13. C’mon. Everyone knows that’s the unluckiest number there is. As long as they don’t face a 13-seed in the NCAAs, they should be golden.
The Zags are built to win in March, and well-led. They’ve had similar teams in the past, and never made the ultimate leap, being surpassed by latter-day mid-major heroes like George Mason, VCU and, yes, Butler. This is the year they must make good on that promise, because the opportunities will grow thinner in the future. With St. Mary’s recently slapped with a four-year probation, the WCC as a whole is about to take a serious credibility hit, giving each league opponent two less chances to earn an RPI-enhancing win in the regular season. That places even more pressure on NCAA hopefuls from the conference to schedule tough out-of-conference teams, which generally means lots of long-distance road trips – assuming anyone wants to take them up on it.
So, overall, it looks like the Gonzaga Bulldogs will be No. 1 come Monday, and that they’ll do what must be done to retain that spot. Whether they finally make the Final Four or hoist a title trophy is another question entirely. Right now, Gonzaga has the perfect storm brewing. An opportunity this great may never come again.
Eric Angevine is editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Dec 7, 2013, 6:59 PM EST
Turns out that the sprained ankle he suffered in Monday’s loss at No. 12 UConn won’t result in any missed game time for Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, as he’s returned to practice and will play on Tuesday night against No. 6 Kansas. That’s important news for the Gators, who faced the possibility of…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:30 PM EST
Dear Kansas fans: Do not start freaking out just yet. I know what happened on Saturday. I saw Colorado’s Askia Booker hit that buzzer-beating, euro-stepping three to beat the No. 6 Jayhawks, 75-72. I saw the bench mob him at half court and Jimmy Dykes ask him questions on ESPN in the postgame that made…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:33 PM EST
After No. 6 Kansas scored the first seven points of the game, it would be difficult to blame any Colorado fans who managed to utter the words, “here we go again.” In last season’s meeting in Lawrence the Buffaloes were blitzed right out of the gates, and the end result was a 90-54 defeat that…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:07 PM EST
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The game had been over for nearly 20 minutes, though, UMass senior point guard Chaz Williams clearly was not done dishing out the assists. He was the last to be seated at the postgame press conference, as he ventured over towards the table of Poland Spring water bottles, grabbed three extra ones…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
Wisconsin was able to outlast in-state rival Marquette 70-64 on Saturday at the packed Kohl Center because they have more firepower. Although the No. 8 Badgers (10-0) and Golden Eagles (5-4) differ in the standings by a few games, they can both really defend and limit opportunities for their opponents to get good looks, but…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Missouri basketball may not have been in the limelight for very long on Saturday before the football team faces Auburn for the SEC Championship, but the basketball Tigers took care of business and had an impressive second half in their 80-71 win over No. 18 UCLA. Both Missouri and UCLA were undefeated entering the game…
Dec 7, 2013, 2:20 PM EST
Yesterday, news broke that Stanford guard Aaron Bright dislocated his right shoulder and will miss the rest of the season. It’s a big blow for the Cardinals, who are dealing with a lack of perimeter depth as it is and have been forced to use a bigger lineup. But here’s the kicker for Bright: he’s…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:30 AM EST
The Wisconsin Badgers and head coach Bo Ryan announced on Saturday morning that redshirt sophomore guard George Marshall has opted to transfer. The announcement of Marshall’s transfer was released on the Wisconsin athletics website this morning. “George came and talked to me and he informed me that he wanted to pursue his options of playing…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 18 UCLA at Missouri (12:30 p.m., CBS) A matchup of 8-0 teams headlines Saturday’s improved slate of college basketball games thanks to the end of the college football regular season. The Bruins are 8-0 under new coach Steve Alford and have yet to face an opponent the caliber of Mizzou…
Dec 7, 2013, 4:02 AM EST
Last weekend, when John Calipari brought his team up to the Barclays Center to take on Providence, he made it a point to talk about how much he team has to learn defensively. In fact, in both the press conference he gave prior to the game and his postgame chat with reporters, Coach Cal used…
Dec 7, 2013, 2:36 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Baylor 67, Kentucky 62 It didn’t have the atmosphere of a game that was one of the season’s biggest to date since it was played at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, but Baylor announced themselves to the country as a top team. They did it with Kenny Chery, a Junior College transfer in…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:58 AM EST
After graduation claimed do-it-all point guard Pierre Jackson from last year’s Baylor team, many wondered if Kenny Chery– a Junior College transfer from State Fair Community College in Missouri — could fill the void. Scott Drew was going to give Chery the keys to the car, but could he drive it? Chery answered that question in…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:17 AM EST
Credit Mike Montgomery and Cal for heading to southern California to play at UC Santa Barbara. It’s not too often that a program from a BCS conference travels to play at the gym of a mid-major team, but the Golden Bears did that tonight. Montgomery probably regrets it as Cal lost to UCSB, 72-65. While…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:19 PM EST
While some were no doubt irked that the Baylor vs. Kentucky game went into four overtimes — thereby causing the men’s game to begin roughly 80 minutes after its scheduled tip — the women’s game was a dandy. The 263 combined points eclipsed the previous record of 252 points. The two teams were neck and…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:49 PM EST
You know by now that every year at Taylor University they have their “Silent Night” game. On the Friday before final exams, the students gather in Odle Arena and the crowd remains dead silent until the tenth point is scored. Once Taylor reaches point number ten, pandemonium ensues. Afterwards, the crowd harmoniously sings “Silent Night.” Tonight…
Dec 6, 2013, 8:36 PM EST
The trying career of Allan Chaney has come to an end. After beginning at the University of Florida for his freshman year, then transferring to Virginia Tech where he never was cleared to play due to a case of viral mycarditis — an infection that results in inflammation of the heart – he finally ended up at…
Dec 6, 2013, 7:45 PM EST
Stanford senior guard Aaron Bright will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a dislocated right shoulder he injured in practice last week. After averaging better than 30 minutes per game a season ago, Bright had been playing a smaller role on this year’s team coming off the bench and playing 19.3 minutes…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:51 PM EST
When St. Joseph’s and Villanova — two of the five schools making up Philadelphia’s “Big Five” — meet on the hardwood, the game is always a ‘can’t miss’ and atmosphere unparalleled. When the game is played at St. Joseph’s Hagan Arena, there may not be another gym in the country that provides the home team…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:07 PM EST
In two of Kansas’ three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend, freshman point guard Frank Mason played well. Overall he averaged 9.7 points and 2.0 assists per contest, reaching double figures in games against Wake Forest (13 points) and Villanova (12). With the recent run of play and his work in practice, head…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:18 PM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 20 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. (ESPN) This isn’t a difficult choice, as the meeting between the Wildcats and Bears at the site of this season’s Final Four is the only contest matching ranked teams. And it’s a chance to make a statement nationally for Baylor, with sophomore…
- Kansas lost, but Jayhawk fans should be happy after the Colorado game 0
- Colorado needs game-winner to serve as a catalyst for Askia Booker (VIDEO) 0
- Turnovers, rebounding woes plague No. 3 Kentucky again 2
- CBT Weekly Roundtable: Figuring out the ACC 0
- Weekend Preview: Kentucky-Baylor, a trio of in-state rivalry games 4
- No. 1 Michigan State’s loss to North Carolina: Injuries, or sign of a bigger issue? (5)
- Weekend Preview: Kentucky-Baylor, a trio of in-state rivalry games (4)
- Report: Delta bumps entire flight to get Florida to UConn (3)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest top 25 rankings (2)
- Late Night Snacks: UConn and Florida go down to the wire (2)