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No. 1 Gonzaga remains undefeated with impressive win at No. 20 Saint Mary’s

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Przemek Karnowski scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Johnathan Williams III added 17 points as No. 1 Gonzaga remained undefeated on the season with a 74-64 win at No. 20 Saint Mary’s on Saturday evening.

Gonzaga jumped out to an early 10-point lead and led by as many as 15 points late in the second half. The Gaels had a couple of runs in them but they never got within five points in the second half.

Nigel Williams-Goss had 14 points for Gonzaga while Jock Landale finished with 24 points and nine boards for Saint Mary’s.

Here are four things to take away from that game:

1. Gonzaga is probably going to go undefeated: It seems incredibly unlikely that the Zags will lose at some point during the rest of conference play. They have yet to play a game in league play that was kept in the single digits. They won by ten at BYU. They beat Saint Mary’s by 23 at home before Saturday’s win. They play three of their last four games at home.

Put simply, if the Zags can get passed Saint Mary’s, a legitimate top 25 team, why should we expect that San Diego and Pacific will be able to make things interesting?

What that means is that Gonzaga’s success in the WCC tournament will likely carry some weight for them heading into the NCAA tournament. In today’s bracket reveal, Gonzaga was given a No. 1 seed, but they were ranked as the fourth No. 1 seed, meaning that any slip-up in a conference where everyone other than Saint Mary’s is looked at as a bad loss is the kind of thing that can cost them dearly when the first -place team in the ACC is a No. 1 seed.

The Zags have earned a No. 1 seed and, barring some kind of insanity down the stretch of the season, I fully expect them to get it come Selection Sunday.

2. The reason Gonzaga can win it all is that this is Mark Few’s best defensive team: The discussion of whether or not this is Gonzaga’s best team usually centers around whether or not this group is better than the team that featured Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos in 2013, and there are some worthwhile points to be made on either side. What’s inarguable, however, is that this is the first time that Mark Few has had a team that ranks in the top five in defensive efficiency. As of Saturday, Gonzaga was fourth nationally in KenPom’s offensive and defensive efficiency metric. Prior to this season, the best finish Gonzaga’s ever had in KenPom’s defensive rankings was 18th.

The irony there is that the biggest concern about this team is their defense. Saint Mary’s was able to expose one of the issues early on in the game: the ability of Przemek Karnowski to defend in ball-screens. The Zags opened up a double-digit lead early in the first half, but the Gaels were able to fight back and tie the game as they exploited that very aspect of Gonzaga’s defense.

The other issue is with the back court. As well as Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins have played this season, what happens when they have to go up against one of the nation’s elite back courts, one that includes, say, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk or Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham.

We won’t get an answer about whether that’s truly the case until the NCAA tournament, but to date, this has not cost Gonzaga a game.

3. Yes, Gonzaga can win it all: I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this at this point, but I do. That’s what happens when you play in the league Gonzaga plays in and you have the tournament success that Gonzaga has had. The same things were said about Bo Ryan and Wisconsin before they got to their first Final Four in 2014. The same things were said about Jim Calhoun before he beat Gonzaga in 1999 and got to a Final Four. Eventually, the same things are going to be said about Sean Miller.

That’s how it works with fans. That’s the danger of a sport where the champion is determined by a single-elimination tournament involving college kids.

But trust me when I tell you that this Gonzaga team can win it all. They have size. They have depth. They have balanced scoring. They have two point guards that can play together and can both makes threes. They have an elite coach in Few. They are elite defensively. They rank No. 1 in KenPom, a predictive metric that is supposed to determine who would win in a game played on a neutral court.

The most important thing about this team, however, is consistency. Everyone else in college basketball has slipped up at some point this season, many more than once. Gonzaga? They haven’t been tested in months despite playing road games against Saint Mary’s and BYU. I’m not saying this team will be the one to do it – never make a guarantee before March Madness – but there is no doubt in my mind that they’re good enough to.

4. Saint Mary’s looks like they’re good, but what have they done to prove it?: Gonzaga’s best win this season is at Dayton in a game where Dayton, who is not a lock to make the NCAA tournament as is, was short-handed. Their second-best win? Beating a young Nevada team at home in their season-opener. After that, they beat BYU … and that’s it. The Gaels don’t have another top 100 win, according to KenPom.

They do, however, have two losses to the Zags by an average of 16.5 points. They also have a 14-point home loss to UT-Arlington, and they still have to play at BYU this season.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Saint Mary’s is on the bubble this season, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this team can afford to slip up down the stretch. 22-3 is 22-3, but that record wouldn’t look nearly as impressive with losses to, say, BYU and Santa Clara.

John Calipari lobbies for change in one-and-some rule to help athletes

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari is hoping the one-and-done rule changes so that athletes have more rights.

In a revealing interview with Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Calipari went into great detail about his thoughts behind a rule that many believe he has exploited greatly to his benefit over the last 10 years. Even though the Wildcats and Calipari have figured out the one-and-done rule to their advantage, the Hall of Fame coach still wants the rule to be abolished.

“Kids should be able to go (to the NBA) out of high school. That’s not our deal. That’s between the NBA and the Players Association,” Calipari said Friday. “Don’t put restrictions on kids.”

Calipari told Engel that he met with the NBPA last week in the hopes of the organization creating a combine for worthy high school juniors with pro potential. Calipari also wants agents more involved with high school kids.

“The players and the families need to know – here are the ones who should be thinking about the NBA, and here are the ones who should not,” Calipari said. “That’s why you need a combine.”

“If they want to go out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave. Why would we force a kid to stay? ‘Well – it’s good for the game?’ It’s about these kids and their families. Because let me tell you, if we (abolish one-and-done), the kids that do come to college will stay for two to three years.”

Calipari also has plenty of thoughts on the NBA G-League and how the league could potentially help young athletes with an education fund if they choose to turn pro directly out of high school. Regardless of what happens with the NBPA and the one-and-done rule, Calipari also said that his program would be fine — regardless of the rules.

Given that Calipari has operated on a different recruiting plane than everyone else in college basketball (with the exception of a few other bluebloods like Duke and Kansas) the last several years, it’s always notable when he gives his thoughts on the overall landscape of basketball.

But is Calipari actually lobbying for this? Or is this yet another way for Calipari to mold quotes into a recruiting pitch for elite players? Ultimately, it’s up to the NBPA to decide how the rules will be for future pros.

Report: NCAA allows Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale to compete on Dancing with the Stars

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After a memorable March Madness run that included two game-winning jumpers in the Final Four and an eventual national title, Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale became a breakout national star.

Ogunbowale already appeared on Ellen while meeting her basketball idol, Kobe Bryant. Now, Ogunbowale will get the rare opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars — which the NCAA will allow even though Ogunbowale is still a rising senior who is scheduled to return to school next season.

Dancing with the Stars compensates its contestants and also has a prize for the winner. Under NCAA Bylaw 12.4.1, college athletes cannot be compensated based on their athletic abilities.

But the NCAA is arguing that Ogunbowale’s appearance on the show is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” according to a statement they released regarding the decision. According to a report from Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post, the NCAA is also limiting Ogunbowale’s visibility for the show’s promotional tools.

From the Washington Post report:

The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.

And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

This is a slippery slope for the NCAA to take with this. Ogunbowale is, quite clearly, a famous basketball player. She’s on Dancing with the Stars because of her basketball abilities. The NCAA arguing anything else is just silly and embarrassing. The NCAA is also trying its best to uphold its argument about amateurism in the only way they know how.

But could this also could be a sign that the NCAA is perhaps open to the potential of allowing athletes to profit off of themselves in the future? The NCAA is currently handling a number of different court cases regarding amateurism, so it’s hard to say where all of this might go until the legal process starts to clear up.

Either way, this should be a fun experience for Ogunbowale while providing great national exposure for herself and women’s basketball. Ogunbowale might not be technically allowed to build her own brand during the show, but she’ll be gaining tons of new exposure for her basketball future — regardless of what the NCAA says in a statement.

Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab diagnosed with leukemia

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Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab announced on Saturday that he’s been battling leukemia lymphoma.

The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt has been receiving medical treatment since the beginning of April as he took to Twitter to announce his current status.

Sameh Azab played in 15 games this season for the Tigers as he saw action for 84 total minutes. The reserve big man was a late addition in former head coach Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at Memphis as he didn’t quality to play during his first season.

“Karim has my full support and the support of our whole team,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said in a statement earlier this month. “While we appreciate the support of the Tiger family in this matter, we would also like to protect the privacy of Karim and his family.”

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum declares for 2018 NBA Draft without an agent

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South Dakota State big man Mike Daum will enter the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt junior has been a mid-major draft darling the past few seasons as Daum was one of the most productive players in the country last season. Putting up 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Daum shot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range during the season.

With his size and unique floor-spacing ability, Daum is going to be an interesting player to track during the NBA draft process. Teams are always looking for big men who can space the floor, and if Daum shoots well in workouts, he could wind up staying in the draft.

If Daum returns to South Dakota State, then he once again makes them a major NCAA tournament contender after the Jackrabbits won the Summit League last season.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.