Kelly Olynyk

Gonzaga deserves No. 1 ranking, but not necessarily a No. 1 seed

53 Comments

It’s official: for the first time in school history, Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the country.

51 of the 65 voters in the AP Poll put them there. So did 29 of the 31 voters in the Coaches Poll.

(CLICK HERE: To see both the AP and the Coaches top 25)

Does this mean that Gonzaga is the best team in the country? Of course not. If there’s anything that we have learned this season, it’s that there really isn’t any single ‘best’ team. Indiana and Kansas and Duke and every other team in the top eight or nine right now is just as good as the Zags. Maybe better.

But as of today, that doesn’t matter.

Because the way the polls work, if you lose, you drop. If you continue to win, you move up. It doesn’t matter whether or not those wins are coming against Portland while those losses are coming of the road to Virginia or Maryland. That’s part of the reason that, thankfully, top 25 rankings play absolutely no role in determining anything in our sport beyond what the little number is that shows up next to a team’s name during broadcasts.

Here’s the bottom-line: Gonzaga has as much of a right to the No. 1 ranking as anyone in the country right now, regardless of conference affiliation. They beat West Virginia by 34. They beat Oklahoma by 25 in the Old Spice Classic. They beat Kansas State — who just so happens to be in the top 10 — by 16. They beat Baylor by seven. They went into Stillwater and knocked off Oklahoma State. In other words, the Zags would be battling Kansas for Big 12 superiority if they were located in Shawnee, KS, instead of Spokane, WA.

Let’s take it a step further: Gonzaga’s two losses this season came when Brandon Paul lit them up for 36 points and when Roosevelt Jones made one of the most exciting and fluky plays of the season.

There shouldn’t be any doubt that Gonzaga belongs in the conversation among the other national title contenders.

But what’s intriguing about this team is that, even if they win the WCC tournament next week, there’s a chance that they could end up falling off the No. 1 seed line in the NCAA tournament.

Only twice since 2000 has a No. 1 seed had a strength of schedule that was lower than Gonzaga’s, which is currently 71st in the country. Both times it was Stanford, who had a schedule strength of 96th in 2004 and 82nd in 2000. There have only been three times where a No. 1 seed has come from outside the Power Six conferences, and all three times — Memphis in 2008, St. Joe’s in 2004, and Cincinnati (then of Conference USA) in 2002 — had schedule strengths in the top 50.

(USA Today’s Eric Prisbell did the legwork researching those numbers.)

This isn’t entirely Gonzaga’s fault, mind you. West Virginia was predicted to be a top 25 team and Baylor was thought to have a chance to crack the top 15. Washington State wasn’t expected to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12, and it just so happens that BYU and St. Mary’s are both a bit down this season. It happens to everyone, I know, but when you play in a mid-major conference and seven of your top ten opponents are worse than expected, it’s going to sting.

There’s only so much that the Zags are able to do, and in my mind, they’ve done enough to be ranked No. 1.

Because it’s irrelevant.

What matters is where they are seeded, and whether or not they deserve a No. 1 seed is a different post for a different day.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

 

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
Leave a comment

Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

Leave a comment

Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Leave a comment

Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
Leave a comment

Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.