Saturday, March 2, 2013

ZIG-ZAGGING: Gonzaga's March to the #1 Spot

--Johnny J

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have flown under the radar all year. They are currently ranked number two in the nation and are setting their sights on being the new number one come next week. With the Indiana Hoosiers falling to Minnesota earlier this week, the Bulldogs have all, but locked up the top spot for next week. It will be the first time ever Gonzaga would be ranked number one. For a team that has flown under the radar all year, now is the time to get hot and bark the loudest (pun intended).

The Bulldogs are currently 29-2 and 16-0 in the West Coast Conference. They've clinched their Conference on Thursday by escaping with a 70-65 win at BYU. "There was a lot of clawing, scratching, pushing, shoving and that's what the score (shows)," junior Kelly Olynyk said. "That's what you live for and what we want to play like."

They have one of the highest, regarded basketball programs ever since they made their "Cinderella" run  in 1999, making it all the way to the Elite Eight. In the 16 years they've been in the WCC, they have earned the Conference title ten times. Their victory at Portland made them undefeated in Conference play; their first time since going undefeated in the conference since the 2008-09 season.

"Our guys really [wanted] to finish up the conference really strong and go undefeated," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

This year, the Bulldogs have a much bigger picture in mind: the goal of winning an NCAA title. The Zags are doing it the best way possible--quietly.  They have notched up almost 30 wins on the season and they've done it with nobody talking about them. I guarantee  nobody wants to see them in the tournament; they have won 10 games in a row and have lost only twice this year: to 13th ranked Illinois in December and 13th ranked Butler in January--they lost by one point.

The Zags are winning games by sharing the wealth. They're ranked 30th in the country in assists, averaging 15.3 a game and are hitting a remarkable 51 percent of their shots as a team. Talk about scoring at will; they're ranked ninth in the country at 78.6 points per game.  That says a lot for a team that hasn't been discussed as a threat. Did I mention they hit 39.6 percent from the trey. That's another word for the three- point line.

The Zags are led by 7-foot, junior Kelly Olynyk, nicknamed, "Long Hair, Don't Care" for his Herculean, long hair look. He is the leading scorer on the team with about 18 points a game to go along with 7 rebounds.  In 2011, he had played for the Canadian National Team, but yet he only averaged 4.8 points for Gonzaga because of then NBA prospect, Robert Sacre who was taking all the glory for Gonzaga. So in order not to transfer, he sat out a year. Now that Sacre is in the NBA as a Lakers' reserve, Olynyk is the man in the middle at Gonzaga.

I guess its safe to say, Olynyk and the Bulldogs are going to be a problem for a lot of teams come tournament time. Anytime you can win on the road in a tough atmosphere shows that the team can stay focus on the task at hand: just winning. I know this team will be hard to stop anywhere they go. I was watching the BYU game and they just kept their composure. Every time BYU got close, the place would begin to rock. Talk about a tough road game, it was a real hostile environment. Gonzaga is a dangerous team.

Let's welcome the new number one: the Gonzaga Bulldogs!

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