Posts Tagged ‘WCC’

LAS VEGAS — It never fails, every year at this time I’m bombarded with requests to fill out brackets for friends, or simply ‘lend’ my No. 1 pick to win the dance.

Some I oblige others I ignore.

After all, when you tell someone a No. 4, 5 or 6 seed can win it just as easy as a No. 1 seed, and they respond with umpteen questions as to why not this team, or that team… well, you can imagine how frustrating it gets for me.

To most, I politely ask: “Are you askin’ me, or tellin’ me?”

Well, as of right now, of all the college basketball I’ve watched – in person and on television – I’m a little afraid to admit the most cohesive group of players, the most complete team from every angle, just might be the No. 1-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, which improved to 31-2 SU with a monstrous 65-51 win over St. Mary’s Monday night in the championship game of the West Coast Conference Tournament, at the Orleans Arena.

Trust me, I watched them sit patiently against Loyola Marymount in the semifinals of the event on Saturday, only to lead by one at the half, and then methodically take the Lions apart in the second half to win with relative ease.

It was a game long-haired Canadian Kelly Olynyk¬†didn’t necessarily play a major role for the Zags – merely a supporting one – but one that saw German-import Elias Harris and Kevin Pangos step up as the stars of the team. That night.

In the championship game against St. Mary’s (27-6)¬†– its familiar conference-rival it would meet for the fifth consecutive year for the title – Gonzaga was sparked by Harris, led by National Player of the Year candidate Olynyk and was as dominating as you could ask from a No. 1 team in the nation, not to mention the soon-to-be-named No. 1 seed for the dance.

As respectable as the Gaels were this season, and even though they came into the game ranked nationally on one poll, received votes in another and is one of four teams that won at least 25 games in each of the last six seasons – one of the other the three is Gonzaga – the Bulldogs acted as if their rivals had no business on the court. After a sluggish first four mintes, Gonzaga turned the game into a scrimmage with its defensive tenacity and communication on the offensive end. Talk about knowing where one another is and knowing how one another reacts on the court, these guys epitomize team basketball.

“We really played a complete game,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said at the post-game press conference. “We played fantastic defense, especially after that first 4-minute timeout. These guys took a very difficult game plan and executed on the defensive end.

“The guys were flying around great tonight. This team is a much better defensive team than some of the other ones we’ve had, and it’s shown. We’ve been charting it for years, our defensive efficiency, and it’s really been good the past five weeks.”

Good? The second-seeded Gaels trailed by as many as 19, at the 13:40 mark of the 2nd half, and again at the 2:48 mark. Good, with all due respect coach, is an understatement. Gonzaga is for real, and the Gaels never stood a chance in Monday night’s game.

And quite frankly, with the maturity the Zags showed after capturing the WCC title, I’m not sure there are many others who stand a chance either.

“We’ve been playing great basketball all year,” Harris said to the media. “We believe in ourselves, we believe in our coaches, we believe in our teammates. So we just try to go out there and play our game. We don’t think about that stuff ’cause whatever you’re ranked – 1st, 2nd or last – you just go and play your game and it’ll all take care of itself.”

It took years for the Dawgs to shed the mid-major level. It took years for them to reach college basketball’s summit and finally earn a No. 1 ranking. Next up is the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament that will undoubtedly ignite more of the madness in Spokane, Washington.

“You have to be short-minded in a sense that it’s not the end of the year for us,” Olynyk added during the news conference. “We still want to come out and play our game in the tournament.”

And that’s scary, because after the two games I witnessed in front of my own eyes, a national championship is on the brink of arriving in the Pacific Northwest.

Yes ladies and gents, dare I say it, the most complete team in the nation is No. 1-ranked Gonzaga.

Copyright 2013