Kelly Olynyk

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


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.


Lawyer: Pierre suspended due to ‘unfair and defective process’

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Dayton forward Dyshawn Pierre, who is suspended from school for the fall semester stemming from a sexual assault allegation, has sued the university over what his lawyer calls an “unfair and defective internal process”.

Peter R. Ginsberg, Pierre’s lawyer, released a statement to on Wednesday stating that his client intends to file suit over the ruling, saying that the school arrived at a suspension through “fundamentally unfair and defective internal process that deprived him of vital rights and protections and has resulted in a disruption in his education, a drastic blow to his reputation, and a potentially fatal interference” with basketball.

Pierre was suspended due to an incident that allegedly took place in mid-April and was reported in May, according to the Dayton Daily News. The prosecutor declined to press charges in the case due to a lack of evidence, the paper reported.

Pierre, a 6-foot-6 wing that averaged 12.7 points last season, is not currently enrolled at the school.

“What has been done to me has been grossly unfair. The allegations against me are false,” he said. “And now I find myself with my reputation tarnished, my schooling interrupted and my dream of helping the basketball team win a national championship being threatened. I want justice, and I want a return to my normal life.”

Ginsberg represented Dez Wells in a similar case. Wells, then at Xavier, was expelled by the university in 2012 following a sexual assault allegation, but he won a settlement from the school in 2014. The crux of Ginsberg’s claims regarding Pierre’s case is that the process by which Dayton reached this conclusion is fundamentally flawed.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.