Who Won The Week? Kentucky, Gonzaga and Cal!

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on November 21st, 2014

wonweekWho Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Tacoma-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Kentucky

The #1 Wildcats put in as dominant a performance against a top-five team as I can remember, eviscerating Kansas 72-40 on Tuesday. As many blocks as field goals surrendered? Holding an elite opponent under 20 percent field goal shooting on a neutral court? Sign me up. If this team plays defense together half this good on a nightly basis, it won’t be on the bottom end of a box score very often this season. The beatdown Kentucky put on Kansas completely justifies overlooking the halftime deficit to Buffalo on Sunday, which became a 71-52 win.  This is as no-doubt a winner as I’ve ever had in this column. (Welcome to year three, kids.)

John Calipari is in a good mood with this many All Americans on his roster (AP).

John Calipari is in a good mood with this many All-Americans on his roster. (AP)

(Related winners: The nine high-school All-Americans who get to play 20 minutes each a game while playing against the best opposing players in the country in practice every day, getting to boost their abilities and NBA draft stock simultaneously. Related losers: Kansas, because yeesh. Buffalo, because blowing a halftime lead wasn’t nearly as bad as the six-plus feet of blowing snow dropped on their city later in the week – after a win at Texas-Arlington, at least.)

LOSER: Florida

Kentucky’s likely foil in the SEC didn’t have nearly as promising a week. Instead, forward Dorian Finney-Smith fractured his non-shooting hand while fellow forward Chris Walker was out on suspension, and in-state foe Miami came into Gainesville and left with a two-point victory, 69-67, on Monday after trailing for the whole game. So long, #8 ranking. Hello, question marks. But hey, on the bright side, maybe losing so early in the season will help the Gators learn how to lose (invariably to Kentucky at some point). On the actual bright side, junior guard Eli Carter made 8-of-9 shots from the field en route to 21 points in Finney-Smith’s absence (which isn’t expected to be long).

(Related winners: Miami, which gets a great road win in the first full week of the season; Carter, for seizing a good opportunity. Related losers: None.)

WINNER: Gonzaga

As good as Kentucky looked against a top-tier team, the Bulldogs looked even more dominant against a Saint Joseph’s team that took eventual NCAA Tournament champion Connecticut to the wire in the first round. The Zags took a 46-10 lead into halftime Wednesday night against the Hawks – without one-time uberrecruit Kyle Wiltjer scoring a basket in that span. That lead eventually ballooned to 60-11 before Mark Few’s team took its collective foot off the gas in a 94-42 victory. (Yes, Gonzaga outscored an NCAA Tournament team’s whole-game output in each half.) Earlier in the week, the Zags lit up SMU – a top-25 team 72-56.

One of the nation's best backcourts is highlighted by Pangos, a two-time All-WCC First team honoree

One of the nation’s best backcourts is highlighted by Kevin Pangos, who leads arguably the most talented team in Gonzaga history. (AP)

Digression time!

Gonzaga has its best collection of talent ever. Kevin Pangos, now healthy from turf toe that dogged him last season, is a four-year starter at point guard. Senior wing Gary Bell has been starting for most of his time in Spokane. Graduate transfer Byron Wesley was USC’s best player last year, an efficient high-usage player the school has not had on the wing recently. Wiltjer has a national championship as a freshman at Kentucky. Center Przemek Karnowski is a shot-blocking machine who draws fouls at an elite rate while shooting efficiently and grabbing tons of rebounds. And added to that mix is freshman forward Domantas Sabonis – son of Arvydas – a rebounder so talented that he has led the team in each of the first three games. If this team can’t get Few deep into the NCAA Tournament, what will?

(Related winners: Sabonis, for seeming to assimilate into a great team with no hiccups. Related losers: Saint Joseph’s, which got embarrassed on national television.)


Man, could Andy Enfield use Byron Wesley right about now. The Trojans have already dropped two games to mid-major programs, losing 76-68 last Friday at home to Tyler Geving’s Portland State Vikings, then following that up with a 28 percent shooting performance Thursday against Akron in a 66-46 loss in Charleston, S.C. A hint of how bad things are currently in the Galen Center: In none of the team’s three games have they averaged more than a point per possession. Props to Enfield for taking the money and running, capitalizing on his Florida Gulf Coast fame, but that hire now looks out of place, the coach overwhelmed in a major conference. Then again, this rebuild was always intended to be for the season after this at the earliest.

(Related winners: Portland State, which got its first win against a Pac-12 team since 2006. Related losers: Enfield, who best hope this rebuild ends up working out.)

WINNER: California

The Golden Bears made everyone think – at least for a night – that Tennessee let go of the next Mike Krzyzewski, blasting Syracuse 73-59 at its second home of Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. Cuonzo Martin’s squad – inherited from the retired Mike Montgomery – looked nothing like a squad picked to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12, carrying a 12-point lead into halftime and not relenting one bit after the break. I know this Orange squad isn’t as talented as many recent vintages, but that’s not going to stop me from feeling like this win is a big deal.

(Related winners: Jordan Mathews, who rained in 22 points Thursday to lead the Bears; Texas, who doesn’t have to face Syracuse in Madison Square Garden now. Related losers: Syracuse, whose trademark zone seemed porous; VCU guard Briante Weber, whose 18-point, 9-steal, 8-rebound, 7-assist performance earlier this week against Toledo got bumped because of this surprising result.)

LOSER: My productivity

It’s college basketball season again, which means I’ll invariably be box-score hunting every night (but never at work, promise) and will be going to as many gyms as I can wedge into my life. Unfortunately, that leaves me, you know, not sleeping much. Oh well. College hoops is always worth it.

(Related winners: You! Related losers: My laundry pile; my bicycle.)

Have any more suggestions of teams that won or lost this week, or any other? Tell me on Twitter at @KennyOcker.

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