As we rapidly approach March, the debate begins as to whom the best team in the country is. The usual suspects are, of course, being mentioned in Indiana, Michigan, Duke and Florida. I’m about to present to you the team that has the best qualities of the previous four and more. The team is actually on the West Coast and is not on television as much as the others.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are 23-2 on the season and are unblemished in the West Coast Conference. Now I know the reader is about to turn away, but the case for the Zags is a good one. Let’s begin with quality victories over Davidson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, BYU and St. Mary’s. The team’s two losses came at the hands of Brandon Paul and Illinois and Butler which needed an improbable finish at Hinkle Fieldhouse to win the game. According to CBSSports.com, Gonzaga has played the 15th toughest non-conference schedule in America so they won’t be afraid by what the tournament will bring.
Gonzaga’s problems in the past have stemmed from a lack of defense and an inability to score when their defense failed them. The Bulldogs have fixed that problem ranking 41st overall in total defense while sporting the 8th ranked offense if you are going by total points per game. They have held 13 opponents to 60 points or less while scoring 80 points or more 12 times.
The Zags are one of the deepest teams in the country and can beat you from the outside and the inside as well. Kevin Pangos is the team’s sharpshooter making just over two three pointers per game. He is one of three players who average at least 10 points per game. They are led by Kelly Olynyk who really took advantage of the year off. Olynyk is shooting 64 percent from the field while pulling down almost seven rebounds per game.
The front court is loaded with Elias Harris, Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski and all are able to score when called upon. Harris drives at will while Dower and Karnowski do most of their work around the basket. Glue guys like Mike Hart and Guy Landry Edi help this team out however they can. We haven’t even gotten to Gary Bell Jr. and David Stockton who are each integral pieces too.
The biggest problem with the Zags is my fear that the officials will not treat them well. If Gonzaga was able to make it to the Elite Eight or Final Four, will they get a proper whistle against the bigger powers? I’d like to think they could beat anyone in the country on a neutral court in a properly officiated game.