It’s unbelievable that a mid-major like Gonzaga can have such a demonstrative impact on college basketball, and it’s great for the sport. The feel-good Cinderella story once exclusive to college football and the mess that is the BCS has finally been introduced to the hardwood.
Regardless of the warm and fuzzies felt because of the success of the now No. 2 ranked Bulldogs, and the growth of player of the year candidate Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga in no way has earned the reputation of the nation’s second-best team.
What usually denotes a national powerhouse in college basketball? Dominant star players, coaching and victories normally earn a team respect. In the vast landscape, how did Gonzaga wind up at the top?
Let’s first look at Olynyk, who has received much of the praise for the Bulldogs’ recent success. The 7-foot junior forward is difficult to overlook, and has gained the respect of teams looking to improve at the next level.
Olynyk’s best three games this season have come against Santa Clara, Saint Mary‘s and BYU, in which the forward scored 33, 31 and 26 points respectively, not to mention a slew of rebounds and assists. Now each of these performances cannot be completely discredited because of the schedule Gonzaga has been given, but why is the entire college basketball fan base going crazy over a player dominating mid-major lightweights?
In the 2012-13 season, Olynyk has proven his value to Gonzaga night-in and night-out with a 17.7 points and seven rebounds stat line in 25 minutes each game. Olynyk is having a fantastic season, but he would never earn my vote for player of the year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a Cinderella story. There’s nothing I like watching more than David beating Goliath. But with the highest ranking in school history, Gonzaga is being deemed “Goliath” in this narrative.
Gonzaga has always had fantastic coaching and play-calling; no one can deny that. However, in the three games against ranked teams that the Bulldogs have played this season (yes, just three. Odd for a team ranked No. 2, right?), they have a record of 1-2, with a one-point victory over Oklahoma State.
Bravo, Gonzaga, but winning one ranked game in a single season does not earn you the No. 2 ranking in the nation. Not even close.
The Bulldogs may very well dominate in the NCAA tournament, and could find themselves contending late in March. They have a strong team, but in no way have the credentials to be ranked No. 2 in the country. Look at the stats, look at the schedule, and any realistic college basketball fan would agree with me.