Kelly Olynyk

Christmas Wish Lists: PG play, 3-point discipline highlight Zags’ needs

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: A point guard that can defend

I love Kevin Pangos — if you haven’t figured it out, I have an affinity for little guards that shoot a lot and put up big scoring numbers — but as good as he is as a basketball player, he’s not a point guard. He’s a shoot-first ball-handler, which is a problem for a team whose strength is on the front line. In fact, I don’t think it’s crazy to say that David Stockton is the only true point guard in Gonzaga’s rotation right now, and even Stockton has issues with turning the ball over. Since Mark Few can’t afford to have Pangos off the floor for extended periods of time, it creates an issue defensively. Do you really want Pangos or Stockton to have to guard a guy like Brandon Paul or DJ Richardson?

That’s the biggest concern I have with the Zags right now. That said, these are issues that mostly manifested themselves over the last 10 or 15 minutes of one game, but they are the same issues that plagued the Zags last season.

Stocking Stuffer: Three-point shooting

Last season, against Division I competition, Pangos was a 40.1% three-point shooter and Bell hit 47.7% of his threes. This season, Pangos is hitting just 36.5% of this triples while Bell is knocking down just 39%. That’s a major reason why Gonzaga, as a team, is shooting just 35.9% from three this year, down from 38.1% last year. It’s not an enormous difference, I’ll admit, but it is a concerning one. Gonzaga’s front court will be creating quite a few open looks for perimeter shooters this season; Pangos and Bell, the two best shooters on the roster, need to make them.

Planning on re-gifting: Three-point gunning

Kelly Olynyk has been a revelation coming off of his redshirt season. He’s hitting jumpers, he’s proven to be able to take the ball to the rim off of the bounce, he’s scores in the post and he blocks some shots. He’s the perfect player to pair with senior Elias Harris along the front line, as their versatility makes them very tough to stop is high-low situations. Both players have also proven to be excellent rebounders on both ends of the floor thus far this season. Throw in seven-foot behemoth Prmezek Karnowski and the ever-underrated Sam Dower, and the Zags have all kinds of talent and depth along their front line.

The issue is that they have a back court that can get too shot-happy. When Illinois was making their run in the second half on Saturday night, the Zags went away from their interior game — where they had a massive advantage on the small, foul-plagued Illini — and settled for too many quick threes. Gonzaga will thrive if they run their offense through their big guys. Pangos and company will get their shots when defenses collapse down.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Henry Ellenson wins Marquette Madness dunk contest

Steve Wojciechowski
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Marquette freshman forward Henry Ellenson won the Marquette Madness slam dunk contest on Friday night with a between the legs dunk.

The 6-foot-10 Ellenson, the top recruit in Steve Wojciechowski’s freshmen class, defeated sophomore Sandy Cohen, fellow freshman Sacar Anim and Wally Ellenson, his older brother.

Ellenson joins the Golden Eagles as the No. 11 overall recruit in the Class of 2015.

Bill Self signs $10,000 check for KU student

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Late Night in the Phog is typically a night to remember for Kansas fans. For Kansas student Jerrod Martin Castro, Friday night’s event is one he won’t forget.

Castro, a sophomore, was selected as a contestant for a $10,000 giveaway. The only thing standing in the way of a big payday was a half-court shot. Brennan Bechard, the Kansas director of basketball operations, attempted the long-distance shot and hit nothing but net.

Kansas head coach Bill Self signed a $10,000 check on the spot.