Thursday, February 28, 2013
The Slipper Now Fits At The Top
Redshirt junior Kelly Olynyk has come from out of seemingly nowhere, taking advantage of increased playing time to replace Robert Sacre and lead Gonzaga to likely No. 1 ranking if Bulldogs can win their two remaining games this week. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)
They've been a part of exciting NCAA Tournament memories such as this one:
They've been on the other side of the fence too, like this instance:
Yet in their decade-and-a-half period of redefining the concept of a "Cinderella" team and proving that mid-major programs can in fact compete and win against the blue bloods, Gonzaga University has never held a No. 1 ranking in either of the two major weekly polls in the history of the Jesuit school's basketball program.
That could all change on Monday, assuming the Bulldogs take care of business in their remaining two games, starting tonight when Gonzaga travels to Provo, Utah for a pivotal West Coast Conference showdown with Brigham Young inside the Marriott Center before the Zags return home to conclude the regular season against Portland on Saturday. After current No. 1 Indiana's upset loss to Minnesota Tuesday night, Gonzaga stands to inherit the top spot after winning ten straight following this defeat at the hands of Butler:
"It would be something that we haven't accomplished yet," Gonzaga coach Mark Few remarked when interviewed live on "SportsCenter" shortly after Minnesota's upset of Indiana. "We've had a great run over these last fourteen years, and there really isn't much we haven't done. I think what that shows is just how hard it is to win on the road, and we're prepared for an incredible environment down at BYU Thursday night."
Given their mid-major roots, there will almost certainly be some fraction of people who will be weary of anointing the Zags as the best team in the nation, despite Gonzaga receiving a performance from center Kelly Olynyk that hardly anyone could have expected. After replacing fellow Canadian Robert Sacre this year after taking a redshirt last season, Olynyk has become the Bulldogs' leading scorer, averaging nearly eighteen points and seven rebounds per game while shooting an astounding 66 percent from the field, the fifth-best percentage in the nation. Swingman Elias Harris has joined guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell as ancillary options for a Gonzaga team that shoots 51 percent from the field as a team, not to mention scores seemingly at will also; managing 79 points per game on average, but yielding just 60.
"I don't have any doubt we're worthy of it," Few said when asked about whether or not he believed his team deserved the top billing Gonzaga is expected to receive in the polls if they can win their next two games. "We've been playing some great basketball on both ends of the floor."
In a college basketball season where the unexpected has become reality, maybe it is time for the number one to be placed alongside the team from Spokane, the one who has proven consistently that they belong among the nation's elite, regardless of what happens to conclude the regular season.