Sound the alarm. Mid-major haters and blinders-wearing BCS-only-matters proponents, beware, the apocalypse is near.
Gonzaga as college basketball’s No. 1 now exists as a very, very real possibility, if not probability – as early as the start of next week.
With Indiana dropping its third game in the absolute meat grinder of a Big Ten schedule, the Bulldogs continuing to cruise through West Coast Conference softies and no one else really stepping up and staying up, the line between haves and have-nots may be blurred beyond recognition.
Oh, the horror …
Ever since Gonzaga crashed the big boys party with an Elite Eight run back in 1999, the higher ups in the Division I image pecking order have been dreading this. Oh sure, they’ll endure the Bulldogs getting a little national pub and maybe even smile when Gonzaga knocks off another ranked opponent, confident all the while that those upstarts from Spokane, Wash., will get what’s coming to them at some point – either in the polls, the NCAA seeding process or the NCAA Tournament itself.
Yet, here it is, genuine respect, the type that comes with being anointed as the best by writers, coaches and other assorted peers and non-peers, about to unveil itself. That’s a whole new ballgame.
Oddly, this is hardly the program’s most talented team during its current 14-year run as an NCAA Tournament participant. Kelly Olynyk, Elias Harris and Kevin Pangos are very good players, but the Bulldogs haven’t had a shortage of very good players since tapping the nation’s conscious and saying, “um, hello, we can play a little” with one resounding Casey Calvary dunk after another. Dan Dickau, Blake Stepp, Ronny Turiaf, Matt Bouldin – they were guys who could have starred for any BCS program. Heck, Adam Morrison was the national player of the year for Gonzaga in 2006.
But the timing and circumstance appears to be right at the moment for the Bulldogs’ rise to the top of mountain – at least in accolades. Indiana, so it says right here, is the best team in the country. But it’s not great. There are no great teams this season. There are a lot of good ones, and Gonzaga just happens to be one.
That may be the worst news of all to those haters, because that means the Bulldogs not only are on a par with the top programs in the country, but they’re widely accepted as being one of them.
1-Indiana, 24-4. Fell by 4 at Minnesota Tuesday night. Their other losses were by 5, 2 and 2 in OT. Hoosiers have been most consistent top-level squad all season, as even those defeats attest. Figure on a top seed in upcoming NCAA Tournament and odds-on favorite status to win it all.
2-Gonzaga, 27-2. Zags have won 10 straight, including a 20-point pasting of Brigham Young, which they visit Thursday night.
3-Miami, 22-4. Yeah, ’Canes incurred bad loss at Wake Forest, but they have no business being ranked behind Duke – yet.
4-Duke, 24-3. Revenge opportunity against Miami this Saturday. Devils also have tough one at Virginia Thursday night.
5-Michigan, 23-4. Wolverines steadied their ship in time to navigate against Michigan State this Sunday and Indiana a week later.
Teams to watch: Florida 22-5, Michigan State 22-6, Kansas 24-4.
1-Gonzaga, 27-2. Zags rank second in country in FG percentage, and maybe No. 1 with inside punch (Olynyk and Harris).
2-Saint Louis, 21-5. Billikens have won nine straight, beating Butler twice and Virginia Commonwealth, but get no breather. They host A-10 preseason favorite Saint Joseph’s tonight.
3-New Mexico, 23-4. Kendall Williams’ 46 points in MWC showdown win at Colorado State may be individual effort of season. Lobos host San Diego State tonight; lost to them by 21 last month.
4-Saint Mary’s, 24-5. Needed to make statement against Creighton in BracketBuster biggie and did, winning by 8. May not be WCC rival Gonzaga, but pretty darn good.
5-Virginia Commonwealth, 22-6. Rallied from 17 down to win by 4 at Xavier. Host Butler Saturday in former most-anticipated A-10 game of season.
Teams to watch: Butler 22-6, Colorado State 21-6, Memphis 24-4.
1-Khalif Wyatt, Temple, senior G. Old School backed off throttle some, but still buried the kill shot against city rival La Salle and led Owls past Charlotte. Numbers: 19.4 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.6 rpg.
2-Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s, senior G. Bull-in-china shop point man posted 20 against BYU and 19 against Creighton in must-win wins. Numbers: 16.1 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.2 rpg.
3-Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga, junior C. Modest figures combined in two wins – 28 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists, 2 steals. But only played 38 minutes total. Numbers: 17.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, .660 FG.
4-Trey Burke, Michigan, sophomore G. Picked up scoring pace last week, registering 29 and 26 points in pair of wins. Numbers: 18.9 ppg, 6.9 apg, 3.1 rpg.
5-Mason Plumlee, Duke, senior C. Rebounded from dreadful outing at Maryland with back-to-back double-doubles in Duke victories. Numbers: 17.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg, .596 FG.
Players to watch: Cody Zeller, Indiana, sophomore F; Doug McDermott, Creighton, junior F; Mike Muscala, Bucknell, senior C.