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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.

NCAA denies extra-year request by NC State guard Henderson

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.

Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.

The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.

Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.

 

N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.