Rushed Reactions: #11 Gonzaga 82, #3 Utah 59

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 19th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Who Saw This Gonzaga Run Coming? (USA Today Images)

Who Saw This Gonzaga Run Coming? (USA Today Images)

  1. Domantas Sabonis/Jakob Poeltl matchup. It was a battle of true big men the likes of which college basketball rarely has these days. Both players clearly have NBA futures, but the battle was clearly won by Gonzaga’s Lithuanian big man on this night. Poeltl picked up two regrettable first half fouls and played just nine minutes in the first stanza, while Sabonis dominated regardless of whether he was in the game. Even when Poeltl returned to play big minutes in the second half, he was never a factor. In the end, Sabonis finished with 19 points (on just 12 field goal attempts), 10 boards, three dimes and even a three-pointer for good measure. Poeltl’s five points and four boards goes a long way to sum up just how effectively Sabonis dominated their matchup.
  2. Improved Guard Play. When Gonzaga was struggling to close games in the regular season against quality teams like Texas A&M, Arizona and Saint Mary’s, it was usually guard play that was the culprit. Today, the Zags’ guards were a complete strength. Redshirt freshman guard Josh Perkins was in control of the offense; Silas Melson was a terrific defender and glue guy; and Eric McClellan bounced back from a poor performance in the First Round to turn in his fourth double-figure scoring effort in March. Coupled with the group of established stars in the frontcourt, the Zags can play with anybody when the backcourt is contributing.
  3. Giving Away Extra Possessions. In their previous two games, Utah had turned the ball over 20 times each. Tonight’s total numbers weren’t so bad in that category (13), but those turnovers led to 20 Bulldog points (against just six for the Utes). Worse, the Utes compounded those struggles by allowing the Zags to outscore them 13-4 on second chance points. In a game decided by 23 points, combine the differences in points off turnovers and second chance points and you have… 23 points.

Star of the GameEric McClellan, Gonzaga. Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis were as good as they normally are, but when Eric McClellan plays like tonight, Gonzaga improves to a different level. McClellan did everything — attacking the rim and finishing in the paint; filling the lanes on the break; even knocking in some jumpers, including a couple threes. He wound up with 22 points on 12 field goal attempts and was a confident veteran presence in the half-court.

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Gonzaga And Saint Mary’s: Excitement and Disappointment

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 9th, 2016

In one way, it was the most predictable thing ever: Gonzaga appeared in its 19th consecutive West Coast Conference Tournament championship game and came away with a win to seal its 18th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. But in another way, it was very different. For the first time since 2007, the Bulldogs’ flimsy resume meant that they absolutely needed to win the league’s automatic bid in order to ensure a trip back to the Big Dance (they ended up as a #11 seed that year and would have probably dropped to the NIT had they lost).

Domantas Sabonis Has The Zags Swinging Into Their 18th-Straight NCAA Tournament (Robert Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

Domantas Sabonis Has The Zags Swinging Into Their 18th-Straight NCAA Tournament (Robert Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

The 2007 team went on to get run out of the NCAA Tournament against Indiana. But in a season without a bevy of elite teams, this year’s squad has great potential as a nightmare matchup for a higher seed. The veteran Zags frontcourt combination of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis is as talented a duo inside as any other in the country, while backcourt players Eric McClellan and Josh Perkins are playing the best basketball of their careers. The Bulldogs aren’t a deep team but they’re strong offensively, well-coached, and have significant postseason experience.

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Best in the West: The 20 Best Teams West Of The Rockies

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on January 26th, 2016

Here’s something we occasionally do: group all of the teams west of the Rockies (you know, the only part of the country, save Austin, New Orleans, Memphis and maybe New York City worth a damn) together, mix them up and see what order they shake out in. This means we’ve got all of the teams in the Pac-12, Mountain West, WCC and Big West Conferences, plus some of the schools in the WAC and Big Sky. And normally, instead of just ranking teams the traditional way, we divide them up into tiers. The idea is that there may be two great teams that have serious Final Four dreams and then a significant fall off when talking about team number three. This year in the West? Not so much. Apropos of the rest of the nation, there are no elite teams. And on any given Saturday (or Thursday, or Wednesday), there’s a good chance whoever checks in a half-page down this list can play with the first team we mention. But still, here’s a best effort at placing the best in the West into tiers.

The Best of the Best: Legitmate Top 25 teams

  • Oregon (#1 overall, Pac-12 #1) – Since back in the middle of the summer, I’ve had the Ducks at the top of the Pac-12. With Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis added to the mix, the Ducks have long had the prospect of being, a deep, veteran, long, balanced squad. Some of those strengths (depth and experience, mainly) have been diminished with the season that wasn’t for Ennis (out for season with broken foot), but Dana Altman’s presence at the helm of a talented group should mean that this team’s best days are ahead of it. With the shot-blocking combination of Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher along the backline and the perimeter defenders like Casey Benson, Dwayne Benjamin and Tyler Dorsey, this team still has a ways to go before it reaches it’s defensive potential, as it is just 69th in the nation in defensive efficiency. The defense has to improve, but if it does, the Ducks’ offense is diverse and explosive enough to drag them a long ways into March.
Hey, Did You Know That Bell Boucher Is A Type Of Banjo? And A Great Shotblocking Combo?

Bell-Boucher: Both A Banjo And A Great Shot-blocking Combo!

  • Arizona (#2 overall, Pac-12 #2) – A one-point loss at California qualifies as a good result in a West that mimics the national landscape by not having any one dominant team. Every one of the Wildcats’ losses has been a tightly fought contest, with a four-point neutral-court loss against Providence to join three conference road losses that came by an average of two points (and four total overtimes). In short, Arizona is, on January 23rd, six possessions away from a perfect 20-0 record, despite the absence of senior Kaleb Tarczewski for eight games, freshman Allonzo Trier for the last four games and junior Elliott Pitts for the last 13 games. While this is by no mean a vintage Arizona team, Sean Miller is the best coach in the West and you can count on him getting the absolute most out of a flawed roster.

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Increasingly Balanced WCC Could Have Bright Future Ahead

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 10th, 2014

Let’s play a little word association game. I say WCC, you say… Gonzaga – right? But when I say Gonzaga, there are bound to be a dozen or so words that will escape your lips before you say WCC. This only makes sense, because for as long as anyone can remember, Gonzaga has been the WCC. Or, at the very least, that interchangeability has served as a quick and easy (and fairly accurate) mental shortcut. But here in 2013-14, the times are a changin’ as Gonzaga has shown more fragility than it has in a long while, but more importantly, the rest of the conference has taken a significant step forward.

BYU Is A Big Part Of The More Balanced West Coast Conference We Have Seen This Year. The Cougars Are Also One Of Many WCC Teams That Should Be Even Better In 2014-15

BYU Is A Big Part Of The More Balanced West Coast Conference We Have Seen This Year. The Cougars Are Also One Of Many WCC Teams That Should Be Even Better In 2014-15.

That pairing of Zag vulnerability and WCC uprising was on full display Saturday night in the WCC quarterfinals, where a Santa Clara team that finished eighth in the league pushed Mark Few’s team to the final buzzer. Gonzaga managed to narrowly escape the Broncos’ challenge (on a David Stockton coast-to-coast layup in the final seconds) and is still the clear favorite to take the WCC Tournament title this week, but are these more balanced days here to stay and flourish in the WCC?

The WCC will likely only send two teams to the 2014 NCAA Tournament (an outside shot at three if Saint Mary’s or San Francisco can steal the WCC Tournament title), but even with Gonzaga slightly down, the league has been better than it has been in a very long time. Their current conference RPI and KenPom ranking of #9 is the best since the 2004-05 season, and there may be even better days ahead. Saint Mary’s core of seniors leaves Randy Bennett’s team vulnerable to a significant drop-off next season (the SMC situation almost demands its own post, honestly), but outside of the Gaels and a senior-laden Pacific team, most every WCC team will return the bulk of its core. The young nuclei around the league have all had their moments this season, and coaching staffs at Pepperdine, San Diego, Portland, Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara should all be expecting improved teams to return in 2014-15.

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A Bumpy Start for Steve Alford at UCLA, But Plenty of Reason for Hope

Posted by AMurawa on October 9th, 2013

Coaching changes are rarely easy. Aside from the typical human stresses of finding a new home and getting to know your new surroundings, for a head coach at a major college basketball program, there are a bunch of young adults in both high school and college for whom you have to account. More than one new head coach’s job has been made much more difficult by the immediate transfers of key players or decommitments from recruits. And when you’re someone like Steve Alford, walking into a high profile job like UCLA as something other than the program’s first choice, the initial impression can be very important.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford’s First Offseason As UCLA Head Coach Has Not Gone Smoothly (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

And, to put it plainly, the first few months of the Alford era in Westwood have been a mixed bag, at best. From the moment the news of the hire came down on the Saturday of last year’s Elite Eight, the wisdom of the decision was questioned. This was a guy just over a week past getting run out of the NCAA Tournament by heavy underdog Harvard, a loss that continued to leave him without a single Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1999. Not long after the hire was announced, many were reliving the questionable decisions Alford made in defending his former player Pierre Pierce against sexual assault charges while both were at Iowa. Alford eventually issued an apology, but it came almost two weeks after he was hired at UCLA and more than 11 years after the initial incident.

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Welcome Back: Pac-12 Team-By-Team Offseason Wrap

Posted by AMurawa on October 7th, 2013

After a long offseason away from college basketball, we’re back. With practice underway across the country, with “Midnight Madness” events looming and with the start of the season on the not-too-distant horizon, it is time to end our hiatus and dig back into hoops. In a year where the Pac-12 seems to sport one legitimate national title contender and a healthy pack of NCAA Tournament contenders, we can finally say that the conference is back from the recent depths and ready to be a consistent contender on the national stage again. But, in taking an offseason sabbatical, we’ve missed some key storylines. So, in order to get you back in the swing of things, we’ll go team-by-team around the conference and quickly catch you up on some key offseason happenings. Later in the week we’ll break down some of these stories in a little more detail. Next week we’ll be back with our daily Morning Fives, and over the course of the next month, we’ll catch you up on everything you need to know going into the 2013-14 Pac-12 season. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know if you’ve been away from the conference for a few months.

Why Is This Man Smiling? Maybe Because He Has the Best Team in the League.

Why Is This Man Smiling? Maybe Because He Has the Best Team in the League.

Arizona – The conference’s clear preseason favorite got some good news over the offseason when 6’10″ sophomore forward Zach Peters was granted his waiver request by the NCAA for immediate eligibility after transferring from Kansas. A quality recruit in the 2012 class, Peters career never got off the ground in Lawrence largely due to injuries, including multiple concussions. If he can stay healthy, he’s a stretch-four who can provide another offensive threat for the Wildcats. Elsewhere, Sean Miller continued his hot streak on the recruiting trail, landing 2014 four-star power forward Craig Victor, while continuing his pursuit of additional heavy hitters in next year’s class.

Arizona State – It was an offseason roller coaster for the Sun Devils, with Evan Gordon opting to spend his senior season closer to home at Indiana, only to have Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall decide that he’d spend his final season of eligibility in Tempe. Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points per game for a depleted Penn State squad last season, will likely slide right into the spot vacated by Gordon’s departure. It’s not all sunshine and roses for Herb Sendek’s team, however, as Jahii Carson is dealing with a stress reaction in his right leg that will limit him in practice during the early going.

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Morning Five: 08.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 26th, 2013


  1. The biggest news of the weekend was the announcement by Emmanuel Mudiay that he was committing to Southern Methodist. Outside of being a shock to the fans of the top schools–Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State–that were reportedly in the running for his services, it is also surprising that he would choose SMU and may validate to a degree the decision by the school to hire Larry Brown, who may not even be there when Mudiay arrives on campus. Many in Big Blue Nation are still in shock that a second top recruit in a few months would spurn them (Andrew Wiggins being the other) as Mudiay had reportedly narrowed his choices down to SMU and Kentucky, but for us the bigger story (outside of the fact a top-5 recruit in the class of 2014 is headed to SMU) was the fact that Texas was not even a consideration for a top Texas recruit and it speaks volumes about the state of Rick Barnes’ program.
  2. For all of Gonzaga‘s success over the past 14 years they have often remained off the radar for many elite recruits for a variety of reasons (location, offers from bigger names, etc) so when Josh Perkins, a class of 2014 point guard who is ranked in the top 25 overall in his class, commits to Gonzaga it is pretty big news. Perkins, who was also seriously considering UCLA and Minnesota, has been Mark Few’s #1 target for this coming season and should fit in well when Kevin Pangos is ready to leave Spokane. Although there have been some other Gonzaga commits over the years who have been as highly sought after (Austin Daye comes to mind), but it is still quite a coup for Few.
  3. We are just a few weeks from the start of the college basketball season, but Texas Southern has managed to pick up one of the best available transfers on the market as the school announced that  Aaric Murray will be headed there. Texas Southern will be Murray’s third school as he transferred from La Salle, where he averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during the 2010-11 season, to West Virginia, where he averaged 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season, but battled disciplinary issues as he was arrested in December 2011 for marijuana possession and was suspended in a separate incident for an undisclosed disciplinary violation. Murray, who is eligible to play immediately as he graduated from West Virginia this past spring, should make Texas Southern, which went 16-2 last season, but was barred from postseason play, a strong contender for the SWAC’s automatic bid.
  4. Dave Rice’s job of keeping UNLV competitive this season despite the loss of several key players just got a little tougher as the school announced that Savon Goodman will not play this season after news surfaced that he was facing two felony charges of first-degree burglary and grand larceny. Despite Goodman’s paltry production last season–3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game–he was expected to be a much bigger part of the team’s game plan with the departures of Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser. Now Rice and the UNLV staff will have to scramble to find a replacement for Goodman, who would have been the team’s starting power forward. That role will probably fall to Jamal Aytes, a three-star recruit who committed to the school just one week ago.
  5. We are not sure how D.J. Haley, who averaged 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game at VCU last season, will fit in with “Dunk City West” after it was announced that he will be transferring to USC, but we guess playing in the Havoc defensive scheme should be good preparation for a frantic style of play. The 7-footer will be eligible to play immediately after graduating early from VCU and will be enrolling in USC’s engineering school. Despite his limited production last season Haley does have quite a bit of experience and actually started for the Rams during their run to the 2011 NCAA Final Four and his experience should help a Trojan frontcourt that is not very deep and lacks experience.
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Tyus Jones Visits Kentucky, Justin Jackson Hosts UNC…

Posted by CLykins on January 18th, 2013


Seven Sweet Scoops  is the newest and hottest column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting analyst. Every Friday he will discuss the seven top stories from the week in the wide world of recruiting, involving offers, which  prospect visited where, recent updates regarding school lists, and more chatter from the recruiting scene. You can also check out more of his work at RTC with his weekly column  “Who’s Got Next?”, as well as his work dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at  Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account  @CLykinsBlog  for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene.

 Note:  ESPN Recruiting  used for all player rankings.

1. Tyus Jones Takes Unofficial To Kentucky. Last weekend the nation’s top junior, point guard Tyus Jones, took an unofficial visit to Kentucky for the Wildcats’ game against the Texas A&M Aggies. Despite watching Kentucky drop its fifth loss of the season, Jones still considers the Wildcats a top contender in his recruitment. Back in December, head coach John Calipari visited Jones twice in one week and has since developed a strong bond with the Apple Valley (Minnesota) product, who became the all-time leading scorer in school history on Tuesday. Including Kentucky, the 6’1″ point guard lists Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio State among his possibilities. While Duke looms as the perceived leader, Kentucky is going to make this a race to the finish.

The nation's No. 1 junior, Tyus Jones, took an unofficial visit to Kentucky last weekend

The nation’s No. 1 junior, Tyus Jones, took an unofficial visit to Kentucky last weekend

2. North Carolina Conducts In-Home Visit With Justin Jackson. One week after performing in front of the North Carolina coaching staff, small forward Justin Jackson received an in-home visit with head coach Roy Williams on Wednesday evening. Jackson, who includes the Tar Heels along with Arizona, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Virginia and Washington, has held an offer from North Carolina since the completion of the AAU season. Ever since then, Williams has been on a relentless pursuit in landing the 6’7″ small forward out of the Homeschool Christian Youth Association (Texas). While the Tar Heels aren’t pushing for a commitment yet, they are however looking to get Jackson back down to Chapel Hill for a visit during the regular season. “We talked a little about a visit, like coming down for a game,” Jackson said. “We’ll probably try to figure that out sometime, but right now I’m trying to focus on the season.” For now, this is North Carolina’s recruitment to lose. Read the rest of this entry »

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