Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 5th, 2013
The title of this post asks a pretty straightforward question: Who is the best shooter from deep in the Big Ten? Seems simple enough. But how do you define the “best” three-point shooter? Is it the player who makes the most threes? Is it the player who makes the highest percentage of his threes? Is it the shooting specialist who contributes the most to his team’s wins? The best approach, of course, is to appreciate all three characteristics. So let’s do exactly that and look into the numbers.
Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year. (AP)
First, we need to create a list of players in the Big Ten who meet certain criteria. For the purpose of this analysis, we will only include returning Big Ten players and use last season’s statistics for measurement. While we recognize that freshmen can be highly effective from long range right out of the gate — look no further than Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas last year — we have no set methodology for projecting freshman output from their high school performance. Therefore, in the interest of convenience, no freshmen are included in this list. The next criterion is that players must have attempted at least 100 3-pointers last season and shot at least 30 percent from deep. This filters out players with a high percentage from a small sample size of 3-point attempts and gunners who put up too many bricks to be considered top-tier shooters.
The table below displays our initial list of candidates given those criteria, and their pertinent statistics from the 2012-13 season (from basketball-reference.com).
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Florida and #11 Minnesota in Austin.
Three Key Takeaways.
Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)
Florida’s offense was very impressive. The Gators shot the ball very well all game. They finished at a 56.8% mark from the field along with a very impressive 50% mark from deep. Florida was able to build a very comfortable lead because of its torrid shooting, 65.2% from the field, in the first half. While Minnesota fought back in the second half to trim the Gators’ lead, Florida’s offense still played quite well in the second frame. Billy Donovan’s squad has had balanced scoring all season with four players (Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario, and Patric Young) averaging more than 10 points per contest. The Gators only had three guys in double figures in Sunday’s victory, but it was evident that the team focuses on sharing the ball among all five players instead of looking to one as its go-to guy. Rosario showed that he has the ability to go off from behind the three-point line, as he finished with a career-best 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from deep.
When Florida plays like it did in the first half, a national title is its ceiling. A statistic that shows just how dominant the Gators were in the first half: Rosario and Murphy combined for 32 first half points, while Minnesota, as a team, only managed to score 27 first half points. The Gators shot a scorching 65.2% from the field and connected on 7-of-14 three-point attempts during the opening frame. Florida also defended quite well during the first 20 minutes, as it held Minnesota to just 39.1% shooting, forced the Golden Gophers into many bad shots, and forced nine turnovers. The Gators have had a reputation for inconsistent play this season – especially late in the season – but if they can put forth similar performances to what they showed during the first half against Minnesota, they could cut realistically cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 8.
Minnesota deserves a great deal of credit for fighting hard. When Minnesota fell behind by 21 at half, it could have definitely laid down and ended up losing by 30+. The Golden Gophers did not do that though, as instead they battled until the final buzzer. While the closest they got to Florida was seven points, they definitely had the Gators worried for awhile in the second half. Guard Andre Hollins was red hot from behind the arc in during that time, which resulted in Florida having to make adjustments to its perimeter defense. By opening the second half on a 17-5 run, Minnesota forced Florida back into attack mode as that was needed to ensure the victory. A lot has been discussed nationally about Tubby Smith‘s job status as the leader of the program. While some of the whispers are probably fair, the team’s effort definitely suggests that Smith did not lose his team this season.
Star of the Game.Mike Rosario, Florida. The senior was feeling it all night for the Gators. He finished with a career-best 25 points – on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-9 shooting from deep. Whenever Florida needed a big shot, it looked to Rosario and he answered the bell. After having a subpar performance in the team’s Round of 64 victory over Northwestern State, Rosario was the best player on the floor in the Round of 32 and his performance has the Gators prepping for another Sweet 16 appearance.
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #6 UCLA and #11 Minnesota in Austin.
Three Key Takeaways.
Did Ben Howland Coach His Last Game in Westwood?
Minnesota’s effort was outstanding. For a team that was woefully inconsistent in the regular season, the Golden Gophers put together a very strong performance in its victory over UCLA. In last week’s loss to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota only managed to score 49 points and looked horrible on offense for almost the entire game. Friday night was a completely different story for the Golden Gophers as they took advantage of a very poor UCLA defense and exploded for 83 points. Minnesota got a ton of good looks throughout the game, which is evident by its 50% shooting mark from the field and its 60% mark from three. UCLA was not exactly top-notch competition, but the Minnesota team that won Friday night looked much more like the Minnesota team that had beat Michigan State and Indiana than the Minnesota team that put up 49 points against Illinois last weekend.
UCLA played like it wanted its season to end. When Jordan Adams went down with a broken foot in the Pac-12 Tournament, it was huge blow to the Bruins. Many national pundits believed UCLA would struggle against Minnesota without Adams, as he was the team’s best defender all season. There is no way the pundits thought that the Bruins would struggle as bad as they did in the blowout loss. Minnesota came into the game averaging 68.4 points per game on the season and it scored 83 against the Bruins. Minnesota came into the game shooting 44.2% from the field on the season, it shot 50% against the Bruins. Tubby Smith‘s squad was able to reach these figures due to the countless open looks that were afforded them by the UCLA defense. Golden Gophers guard Andre Hollins finished with 28 points and was 5-of-8 from deep. UCLA did not make a single adjustment when Hollins started to get hot. There were also several instances of where Minnesota big men Trevor Mbakwe and Elliott Eliason just outworked the Bruins’ interior players to grab offensive boards to help their team retain possession. UCLA’s offense was also horrible, as it shot just 31.7% from the field including a ghastly 18.2% from three. While it is understandable that teams do have poor shooting night, what was so dumbfounding about UCLA’s is that it continued to take horrible shots on bad looks until the final buzzer. The Bruins played like they did not want to be in the NCAA Tournament and it showed on both ends of the court in their pathetic loss to Minnesota.
It might be time for a coaching change in Westwood. While the Bruins did finish 25-10 and win the outright regular season Pac-12 title, with the riches of talent the team has possessed over the years, the team just has not won enough. UCLA has missed the tournament in two of the last four seasons and only has two tournament wins since 2008. Considering that Steve Lavin was let go by UCLA after making the tournament in six of his seven seasons in Westwood and taking the Bruins to five Sweet 16s, it should be to the surprise of no one if UCLA decides to make a coaching change after this flameout against Minnesota. Another thing that works against Howland is that according to a Chris Foster story in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times, “he had received no indication from his bosses about his status or what his team had to accomplish for him to stay on the job.”
Star of the Game. Andre Hollins, Minnesota. The sophomore guard put forth quite the offensive performance for the Golden Gophers. He tallied 28 points on 8-of-16 from the field and knocked back 5-of-8 from deep. Hollins was Minnesota’s go-to guy all night and he responded with a very good offensive performance. If Minnesota wants any chance at beating Florida on Sunday, it is going to need a similar performance from Hollins.
Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.
Next time Tubby Smith feels inclined to show off his dance moves, he might think twice. After the old coach cut up a rug in the Gopher locker room following an overtime win over Wisconsin, all his team has done is go on the road and get smacked twice, dropping games to Iowa and Ohio State by a combined 47 points. Suffice it to say that there was no two-stepping going on in the visitor’s locker room in Columbus last night, as Minnesota has now dropped five consecutive road contests. Dazzling computer numbers and a handful of quality victories should prevent the Gophers from slipping all the way out of the NCAA Tournament field, but for a team that was once 15-1 and in the top 10 of both national polls, this late February predicament feels like one that never should have happened.
Tubby Smith Is Wondering What Happened To His Gophers
The Gopher offense still ranks in Ken Pomeroy’s top-25 nationally in regard to offensive efficiency, but the recent slide has coincided with some serious issues putting the ball in the bucket. Minnesota exceeded 70 points in all but two of their first 18 games; in the last nine affairs (a stretch where they went 3-6), Tubby’s crew has managed 60 points just twice. Star guard Andre Hollins’ production has been equally dismal over that stretch, having shot just 32% from the field over those nine games. Tubby Smith had to expect his team’s offense to drop off a bit when they hit Big Ten play, but the grade of that cliff has proven far steeper than he would have liked.
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
About two weeks ago, the Minnesota Gophers were ranked #8 in the polls and were considered as one of the contenders to win the Big Ten title. After a tough loss to Indiana (88-81) on the road, the Gophers unexpectedly hit a mid-season slump by dropping three more games in a row to Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Gophers still have the talent to become a top team in the Big Ten but they might need some help from their senior forward Rodney Williams. Even though forward Trevor Mbakwe has been averaging a double-double (12 PPG and 11.5 RPG) and guard Andre Hollins has averaged 16 PPG during the losing streak, Williams holds the key for the Gophers to return to their winning ways. It is not coincidental that Williams has struggled mightily during the team’s losing skid — he scored 11, 11, seven and two points during the four losses against Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin, respectively.
Rodney Williams has struggled during the Gophers’ recent losing streak (Star Tribune)
Except for the IU game, Williams hasn’t been comfortable in the offense and his hesitancy can be attributed to the overall pace of the game and his offensive skill set. The athletic forward runs the court very well and is a great recipient of passes in transition because he finishes so strongly around the basket. The IU game was played at a frantic pace because Tom Crean’s team prefers it that way and it suited Williams’ offensive strengths. But the Wildcats and the Badgers slowed the game down against Minnesota with their defense, and it forced the senior forward to find other ways to score in the half-court. He shot just 3-of-11 from the field against the 1-3-1 zone in Evanston because he wasn’t given the ball in his favorite spots on the floor. When he isn’t scoring in transition, Williams is excellent off the pick-and-roll where he sets a screen at the high post or the baseline and uses his quickness to cut to the basket to finish with a variety of dunks. A majority of his points in the half-court are a result of layups or dunks as the Gopher guards get into paint. The Wildcats forced Hollins to instead settle for jumpers (2-of-7 3FG), so he couldn’t get Williams involved. Even though the Badgers didn’t play a similar zone, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson were still able to prevent Hollins from driving past the first layer of defense. Hollins still scored 20 points but didn’t have much success getting all the way to the basket. It is clear that Williams struggles offensively when Hollins and the other guards can’t get into the paint. His performance against the Wolverines looked fine on paper (11 points) but he turned the ball over four times because he was trying too hard to create his own shot — not one of his offensive strengths.
The Purdue Boilermakers will likely not make the NCAA Tournament this season because they are rebuilding with a young core of players. But would they have a better shot at making the postseason if they had landed Michigan freshman Glenn Robinson III on the recruiting trail? The 6’6″ wing could have followed the footsteps of his famous father and Purdue legend, Glenn Robinson, but Matt Painter did not have any scholarships left to offer him. Robinson came into his own in high school after committing verbally to John Beilein, rising up the rankings by the time he graduated. He was a three-star prospect at the time of his verbal commitment but finished his prep career ranked #11 by Rivals during his senior year in high school. While his team’s prospects wouldn’t have been as promising, his scoring average would probably be higher than 12.1 PPG if he were playing in West Lafayette this season as a primary scoring option on a younger team.
Speaking of Purdue, long time assistant and Indiana native Bob King passed away this week at the age of 92. King was an assistant coach for the Boilermakers from 1960-74 and was inducted into the Indiana basketball Hall of Fame in 1986. He was an assistant and associate athletics director from 1974-93 and oversaw one of the best stretches of basketball in West Lafayette under former head coach Gene Keady. Current Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke added, “He coached, mentored, listened and held people accountable — all with a sense of compassion.”
It is never too early to look ahead to a game that could potentially be a classic match-up when it occurs. The Wolverines head to Bloomington on February 2 and if both Michigan and Indiana continue to play well, the game could feature two top five teams battling for Big Ten supremacy. Hoosier State of Mind provides a very premature preview of the game between the two best teams in the Big Ten so far. Nik Stauskas (12.6 PPG) is described as a player that “could shoot as well as Jordan Hulls but can also drive to the hoop with some power.” Stauskas needs to be pull himself out of his current mini-slump before traveling to Indiana in order to help John Beilein’s squad notch a quality win on the road.
Michigan has already proven that it can win in a tough road environment by beating Minnesota in Minneapolis. Star-Tribune‘s Amelia Rayno addresses the Gophers’ loss to the Wolverines and other questions about Tubby Smith’s team in her weekly mailbag. She credits last season’s run to the NIT championship game as a key factor in helping these young Gophers gain some confidence before this season started. Rayno believes that Andre Hollins and Joe Coleman grew during the process as mature leaders and adds, “It allowed the Gophers to go into their offseason with immediate memories of success, but also a reminder that they had not suddenly become perfect, they still had flaws and there was still much work to be done.” Hollins has averaged 14.3 PPG and 3.7 APG and is arguably the best guard in the Big Ten this season after Michigan’s Trey Burke.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is never satisfied despite having won five straight Big Ten games heading into Madison last night. Before the game Izzo said, “We’re not as solid as we were last year,” when asked about the Spartans’ performance so far this season. Izzo has tried numerous lineups with Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson rotating role players around them, but he hasn’t found a combination that has worked consistently so far. He certainly has the flexibility of playing a big lineup with those three players and bringing Travis Trice off the bench along with freshman Denzel Valentine. After a tough win on the road against the Badgers last night (49-47), the Spartans are continuing to improve and may change their coach’s mind over time.
Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Conference season has leveled the playing field as the remaining unbeaten teams have all lost. The Big Ten schedule is proving to be an absolute gauntlet and the Mountain West is nothing to sneeze at. Both leagues have stellar games this week along side a few other notable match-ups from around the nation. Let’s get to the breakdowns:
#1 Louisville at Connecticut – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)
The Louisville Cardinals are moved into the top spot in the nation after losses this weekend by Duke and Michigan and a loss by Arizona earlier last week. Their first game as #1 will be no easy contest as they head to Connecticut in a tough Big East road match-up. The Huskies are coming off a significant win at Notre Dame, which rarely loses at home, but it looks like UConn has their number, as they account for ND’s only two losses at home in the last two and a half years. UConn guards Ryan Boatright and ShabazzNapier will be the focus of this game, as they face intense pressure from the Louisville defense. Up to this point in the season, both players have protected the ball quite well, particularly Napier who is only giving it up on 11% of his possessions. They must be able to handle the press however in order to give the team a chance to win this game. Also, keep an eye on UConn’s Tyler Olander. He went 8-9 from the field against Notre Dame going for 16 points and 7 rebounds. He will be surrounded by very athletic big men on Louisville. UConn needs him to produce against Gorgui Dieng and company to take some pressure off the guards. The difference in this game may actually be Louisville on the offensive boards. The Huskies rank 298th in defensive rebounding percentage. With the Cardinals throwing Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Wayne Blackshear at the glass on the offensive end, it’s going to be tough for UConn to prevent second chance points. However, if they can limit turnovers, they have a shot to win at home.
Any remaining doubts about Minnesota’s ability to be a contender in the Big Ten were put to rest Wednesday night as the Gophers took down Illinois 84-67 in Champaign. On paper, it should have been a close game — #8 at #12 — but in reality, Wednesday’s game proved that Minnesota has staying power while Illinois could struggle to keep up its early-season pace.
The Gophers Have Proven To Be Much More Than Just Trevor Mbakwe
Statistically, Minnesota looks very likely to continue its early-season success. The Gophers are incredibly balanced with top players Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe in the frontcourt and the emergence of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman in the backcourt. That has led to an offensive efficiency rating that ranks 1oth in the nation and a defensive efficiency rating that ranks #14 nationally according to KenPom.com. Minnesota ranks only #51 in effective field goal percentage, but the Gophers are the best in the nation at offensive rebounding, getting a second shot off a ridiculous 48.5 percent of the time. Add in a defensive block percentage that ranks sixth and a steal percentage that ranks eighth nationally, and Minnesota is getting many more possessions than its opponents. So even on an “off” shooting night, the Gophers will always be in the game because they get so many more chances to shoot than their opponents.
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
After two months of basketball, there are six B1G teams ranked in the Top 25 and they can be viewed as the main contenders for the conference title at this juncture – Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan State. The Gophers were one of the sleeper picks to compete for the conference title during the preseason but they are now one of the favorites. They have great depth at the guard position (Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman), an athletic wing (Rodney Williams) and a solid post presence (Trevor Mbakwe). But their offense does not rely on the three-point shot at all and they don’t really have a consistent three-point shooter. Can Tubby Smith’s Gophers win the Big Ten title without a discernible three-point attack?
Andre Hollins is the only Gopher that shoots over 40% from beyond the arc. (USA Today)
Let’s examine how the Gophers’ long-range shooting compares to the rest of the contenders:
The Wolverines and the Hoosiers have clearly shoot the ball well because they have several guards who can fill it up from beyond the arc. John Beilein has Trey Burke (41% 3FG) and Nik Stauskas (54% 3FG) available, arguably the best shooter in the country at the halfway point of the season. Tom Crean’s crew can shoot lights-out because Jordan Hulls (51% 3FG) has a quick and accurate release on his jumper. But Dre Hollins is the only Gopher who is shooting over 40% this season. Austin Hollins shoots 37% from beyond the arc but he rarely looks to take the perimeter jumper. Maverick Ahanmisi has shot 38% this year but he only plays 11.6 MPG. Smith’s offense is very effective in its own right but the Gophers rely on moving the ball around in the half-court sets to find the open cutter (usually Coleman or Williams). There are very few plays that are drawn specifically for the guards to hoist a shot from beyond the arc, and as a matter of fact, only 20% of the Gophers’ total points come via the three-point shot.
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
Non-conference games on neutral courts are tough but they don’t present the same challenges as true road games. Tubby Smith’s Gophers had a great run during the Battle 4 Atlantistournament last weekend but hot players can ride a streak when playing three games in three nights. Even though winning two games in three nights is very impressive, the Gophers had yet to play on the road until last night’s game against Florida State, so there were still a few questions about their composure away from Minneapolis. The Seminoles are a defensive-oriented team that would fit perfectly well in the B1G because of their grind-it-out style of play. Factoring in their fatigue (fourth game in six nights) and a road contest against an opponent that had not played a game in six days could have meant that the Gophers would have trouble, but Minnesota showed no signs of slowing down. Not only did they convincingly win in Tallahassee, 77-68, but they proved that their depth and maturity will be their greatest assets this year.
Andre Hollins leads a quartet of guards that provide great depth for the Gophers. (USA Today)
Depth at the Guard Position: Both of the Hollins, Austin and Andre, have a common last name but provide great diversity to Smith’s offense in the half-court. Andre Hollins showed that he can score from anywhere on the floor as he went off for 41 points against Memphis last week but he also showed that he can facilitate last night by dishing out five assists against FSU. He was the primary ballhandler and had some nice passes in transition to the other wings. Austin Hollins, on the other hand, has a great wingspan and consistently cuts to the basket. Even though he was only 1-4 from beyond the arc last night, he muscled his way into the paint for eight free throw attempts. The third guard in the starting rotation, Joe Coleman, has a great mid-range jumper. He is strong enough (6’4″, 200 lbs.) to set hard screens out top and roll off to drain 15-footers from the mid-range. If this trio of guards isn’t enough, Julian Welch can fill in perfectly for any of them if they get into foul trouble. Because Welch can score off the bench, Coleman or Austin Hollins can afford to take chances on the defensive end and be a bit more physical against the best wing on the opposing team. The starters played FSU sharpshooter Michael Snaer very closely Tuesday night and held him to just 33% shooting from the field. Minnesota might have one of the best guard combinations in the Big Ten. Read the rest of this entry »
Minnesota has yet to prove that it can be an elite team, but after a strong three-game stretch in the Battle 4 Atlantis over the weekend, the Gophers proved they can be an awfully good one that can contend for the Big Ten title. After losing to Duke in the opening game, Minnesota came back to defeat Memphis and Stanford to close out the tournament. Of course, preseason tournament wins aren’t all that meaningful, but if anything, the Battle of Atlantis showed us one very good thing for the Gophers: They can score from anywhere.
Tubby May Have His Best Team at Minnesota (AP)
This isn’t a guard-dominated team or a forward-dominated team; players at both positions stepped up in each of the games. The guards — particularly point guard Andre Hollins — are good. Hollins scored a career-high 41 points against Memphis and was a pivotal player in the Stanford game. He had been considered a possible breakout player in the preseason, and so far, he has shown that he is certainly worth the hype. The Gophers’ two other stars — forwards Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe — have also been impressive, as has the frontcourt that out-rebounded every opponent at Atlantis. Minnesota’s ability to be successful at all five positions makes the Gophers very difficult to defend, given how many scoring options are on the floor.
Chris Johnson is an RTC National Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Tonight’s Lede. Battle 4 Atlantis Meets Expectations. The debate over this year’s best early-season exempt tournament was never a debate. The quality of teams assembled for the Battle 4 Atlantis far outstripped every other event across the nation. The field generated a considerable amount of hype, so the potential existed for at least some level of letdown. With a tantalizing Duke-Louisville final looming, the proceedings in the Bahamas have not disappointed. Each game provided a different dramatic twist – from Northern Iowa’s near-upset of Louisville to Andre Hollins’ 41-point outburst against Memphis to Duke’s deft maneuvering of VCU’s havoc defense. Not only did the tournament bring us great teams, it supplied a remarkably clean brand of basketball, which no doubt owes itself to the NCAA rules allowing coaches to work with their teams over the summer. Even if the championship doesn’t live up to your expectations, the rest has been thrilling to observe. Whether or not the Battle 4 Atlantis can compile the same elite field next year remains an open question. But come on, this needs to be repeated on an annual basis – in the Bahamas or otherwise.
Your Watercooler Moment. Punishment Does not Meet Offense In Sean Woods Case.
By now, you’ve seen the video clip numerous times, read the multitude of columns written in its aftermath, and listened to the talking heads debate Sean Woods’ sideline behavior during the second-half of Morehead State’s 81-70 loss at Kentucky Wednesday night. Any rant on coach-player misconduct has the potential to branch off into 1,500-word category, but I’ll condense my thoughts into a simple statement: the behavior Woods exhibited has no place on a collegiate sideline. It’s inappropriate and cruel, callous and cold-hearted. His actions demand no less than a 5-10 game suspension and a genuine public apology. Yet after berating one of his players on a public stage, reducing him to tears, Woods’ actions merit a mere one-game punishment. Morehead State needed to send a message; a one-game absence doesn’t do nearly enough to accomplish that goal. You can understand Woods’ getting caught up in the moment, what with a potential victory over defending national champion Kentucky on the line, not to mention the prospect of beating his former alma mater. But to lose your cool in a public setting and channel your frustration over a blown lead into the denigration of one of your players is patently disrespectful. And it’s not like this is the first time we’ve seen Woods exhibit poor sideline conduct before. He notably chewed out junior center Chad Posthumus during a Nov. 12 game against Maryland. Woods’ repeated behavior merits stern punitive action. Missing one-game won’t lead to any meaningful change in sideline decor. This situation demanded harsher repercussions; Woods has shown a repeated inability to restrain his temper. Here’s to hoping that university’s minimal wrist slap will prompt a change in Woods’ demeanor.
Your Quick Hits…
Two of Nation’s Hottest Teams Roll Into Old Spice Final. Many felt heading into this season that this very well could be Mark Few’s best Gonzaga team since taking over in 1999. That sentiment feels especially true after the Bulldogs’ 5-0 start. And the scary part for the rest of the WCC and mid-major nation at large is that Gonzaga hasn’t even been tested yet. They handled an improving Oklahoma squad, 72-47, Friday night and enter Sunday’s Old Spice Final riding a powerful wave of momentum. They could face their biggest challenge yet in Davidson, who has posted consecutive wins over Vanderbilt and West Virginia and features a formidable frontcourt duo in Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks. Make no mistake, Gonzaga and Davidson are two of the best mid-majors in the country, and you can expect to see both playing and (pending seed and matchup) advancing in March. Sunday’s final provides a nice showcase game for two teams who should cruise through their respective league schedules. Enjoy it. Read the rest of this entry »