Kevin Pangos

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No. 2 Gonzaga wraps up first Sweet 16 appearance since 2009

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Balanced scoring has been a key for No. 2 Gonzaga throughout the season, so it’s no surprise that Mark Few’s team put together that kind of effort in their 87-68 win over No. 7 Iowa to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009. The Bulldogs shot 61.5 percent from the field and 10-for-16 from beyond the arc, with junior forward Kyle Wiltjer leading the way with 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.

After having issues offensively at times last season, Gonzaga’s been one of the best offensive teams in the country this season with Wiltjer’s addition being one of the key reasons why. His ability to hit shots from just about anywhere on the court gives Gonzaga a level of offensive spacing that they didn’t enjoy last year. Add in their ball and player movement, and the Bulldogs are an incredibly difficult team to slow down.

Wiltjer scored 13 of his points in the first half, and with Gary Bell Jr. and Domantas Sabonis adding eight apiece Gonzaga was able to build a 17-point halftime lead. Thirteen of Gonzaga’s 18 made field goals in the first half were assisted, and four players finished the game with at least three assists. Joining Wiltjer in double figures were Bell Jr. (ten points, four assists), Kevin Pangos (16 points, three assists) and Domantas Sabonis (18 points, nine rebounds).

Iowa managed to cut the halftime deficit to 11 with 10:50 remaning thanks in large part to the tandem of Jarrod Uthoff (20 points, eight rebounds) and Aaron White (19 points). However a 9-0 Gonzaga run combined with a stretch of nearly six minutes without a basket for the Hawkeyes removed any lingering doubt.

Next up for Gonzaga is No. 11 UCLA Friday night in Houston, and the two met earlier this season with the Bulldogs winning in Los Angeles. These teams are different than they were at that time, especially with UCLA playing with more confidence now than they did in December.

As for Gonzaga, they’ve managed to rebound from their second loss of the season with five straight wins by nine points or more. And Sunday’s win gets the program back into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years.

Even though Gonzaga’s been the lower seed in four of their last five NCAA tournament defeats, with the lone exception being their loss to Wichita State in 2013, detractors have been quick to point out the program’s lack of success in March. Sunday’s win may (or may not) quiet some of that chatter, but given their talent and depth this current group is capable of a lot more than just two wins.

Kyle Wiltjer, Kevin Pangos shine as No. 2 Gonzaga advances

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Kyle Wiltjer went for 23 points as No. 2 Gonzaga avoided disaster against No. 15 North Dakota State with an 88-76 win on Friday night.

The Zags looked to be firmly control early in the second half when North Dakota State went on a run. The Bison cut what was, at one point, an 18 point lead to just six midway through the half.* That’s when Kevin Pangos started doing Kevin Pangos things, taking over the game as he hit a series of big shots while taking control of the game.

Pangos scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, handing out five assists and turning the ball over not-a-once, which is peak-Pangos. His numbers are down a bit this season, but the job that he has done as a pure point guard is so underrated. Few players at that position consistently make as many correct decisions as he does.

Gonzaga will advance to take on No. 7 Iowa, which will be an interesting matchup. Gonzaga doesn’t really have a player to matchup with Aaron White, and as we saw earlier tonight, White is playing as well as anyone in the country. This will be a big game for Gonzaga, as it will not only get them back to the Sweet 16, but they’ll have a great chance to get to the Elite 8 from there. Both of the higher seeds in their part of the bracket — No. 3 Iowa State and No. 6 SMU — lost in the opening round.

*(Sidenote: The run was sparked by a sophomore named Dexter Werner, who has become my new favorite college basketball player. He stands 6-foot-6 on a good day and checks in at 235 pounds, although that seems … generous. But the dude has some awkwardly effective moves on the block, and he spent the second half giving buckets to Gonzaga’s front line. He finished with a career high 22 points.)

Freshmen Tyus Jones, Melo Trimble among finalists for Bob Cousy Award

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Friday morning the finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, annually given to the nation’s best point guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, were announced. Among the players on the list are two of the nation’s best freshmen, Duke’s Tyus Jones and Maryland’s Melo Trimble.

They’re the only two first-year players on the list, which includes six seniors, five juniors and four sophomores.

From a conference standpoint the Pac-12 leads the way with four finalists, with Arizona’s T.J. McConnell, Cal’s Tyrone Wallace, Utah’s Delon Wright and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss being the players on the list. In total nine conferences are represented. Also making the cut is BYU junior Kyle Collinsworth, who has tallied an NCAA-record five triple-doubles this season.

Below is the list of finalists for the award, which was won by UConn’s Shabazz Napier last season.

2015 Bob Cousy Award Finalists

T.J. McConnell, Arizona (senior)
Kyle Collinsworth, BYU (junior)
Tyrone Wallace, California (junior)
Ryan Boatright, UConn (senior)
Tyus Jones, Duke (freshman)
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga (senior)
Keifer Sykes, Green Bay (senior)
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (junior)
Monte Morris, Iowa State (sophomore)
Terry Rozier, Louisville (sophomore)
Melo Trimble, Maryland (freshman)
Marcus Paige, North Carolina (junior)
Kris Dunn, Providence (junior)
Delon Wright, Utah (senior)
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington (sophomore)
Juwan Staten, West Virginia (senior)
Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State (junior)

Chase for 180: Already a good shooter, Tyler Harvey’s been even better in 2014-15

Troy Williams, Tyler Harvey
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The “Chase for 180″ is back for a second year, and for those who may not be familiar with the project it’s our attempt to identify some of the best shooters in America. But what makes one an “elite shooter?” For some it’s merely the ability to knock down perimeter shots at a high rate, but that isn’t the case for all players. High-level shooting requires proficiency from three, the field overall, and from the foul line. 

“180” refers to the resulting number when adding a player’s field goal, three-point and free throw percentages, with the best shooters either approaching or surpassing that mark. 50 percent or better from the field overall, 40 percent or better from three and 90 percent or better from the foul line. This achievement has occurred more often in college basketball than it has in the NBA, where just six players (Steve Nash did it in four different seasons) have done it in the history of the league. 

We’ll update this list throughout the season, with players also needing to qualify to be ranked by the NCAA in each of the three percentage categories in order to be considered. In order to qualify to be ranked a player needs to have played in at least 75 percent of his team’s games and have averaged: 

  • five or more field goal attempts per game;
  • two or more three-point attempts per game;
  • 2.5 or more free throw attempts per game.

To read prior installments of the Chase for 180, click here

Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey enjoyed a productive debut season after redshirting in 2012-13, scoring an average of 21.8 points per game while shooting 44.3% from the field and 43.3% from beyond the arc. Obviously the opportunities Harvey saw a season ago would once again be present in 2014-15, and he’s certainly taken advantage for head coach Jim Hayford. But the scary thing for the rest of the Big Sky is that while Harvey’s scoring 24.0 points per game, he’s putting points on the board in a more efficient manner than he did last season.

Harvey’s percentages have risen to 51.4% from the field and 48.6% from beyond the arc, with the biggest change coming in the way he’s scored inside of the arc. After making 45.2% of his two-point attempts as a freshman, Harvey’s shooting 54.3% this season. The ratio has changed some this season, with the majority of Harvey’s shots coming from outside of the arc (163 three-point attempts, 92 two-point attempts) after attempting just 24 more three-pointers than two-pointers in 2013-14 (234 three-point attempts, 210 two-point attempts).

But Harvey’s done a better job of converting the two-point looks he does get, even with the increased attention that comes with being the focus of every opponent’s scouting report.

Scoring-wise, Harvey’s reached double figures in every game this season and he’s scored no fewer than 16 points in any of those games. In conference play Harvey’s been even more productive, averaging 26.1 points per game on a team that’s 6-1 in Big Sky play. In wins over Northern Colorado and North Dakota last week, Harvey averaged 30.5 points per game on 59.3% shooting from the field, 46.7% from three and 88.0% from the foul line.

While the presence of three other double-figure scorers in conference play, led by freshman forward Bogdan Bliznyuk (15.1 ppg), helps Harvey from a spacing standpoint teams still know who EWU’s primary scoring option is. And yet he continues to put up highly impressive numbers for the Eagles, who are aiming for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2004.

50-40-90 Players

Jack Gibbs (Davidson) 
51.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 90.8% FT = 183.9

Gibbs has missed the last two games for the Wildcats due to a knee injury.

He’s Close to 50-40-90 Status

Derrick Marks (Boise State)
51.9%, 53.8%, 86.2% = 191.9

Marks and the Broncos have now won five straight, with the senior scoring 28 in a win over Colorado State Tuesday night.

Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington)
51.4%, 48.6%, 85.8% = 185.8

Seven More “180” Players 

Jacob Parker (Stephen F. Austin)
55.6%, 46.2%, 81.6% = 183.4

Parker followed up a 13-point outing in a win over Sam Houston State with a 20-point (7-for-13 FG), 12-rebound night in a win over Lamar on Monday.

Justin Anderson (Virginia)
50.0%, 51.9%, 81.0% = 182.9

Like his teammates Anderson got off to a slow start Sunday at Virginia Tech. But he scored ten points in the final 7:05 to lead the Cavaliers to the 50-47 win.

Corey Hawkins (UC Davis) 
50.9%, 51.0%, 80.0% = 181.9

Shooting wasn’t an issue for Hawkins in the Aggies’ loss at Hawaii last Thursday (5-for-8 3PT), but the seven turnovers were.

Nic Moore (SMU) 
45.9%, 46.3%, 89.2% = 181.4

With the Mustangs navigating multiple personnel losses, it’s been Moore leading the way for a team one game behind Tulsa in the conference standings.

Alec Peters (Valparaiso) 
50.2%, 46.4%, 84.4% = 181.0

Peters bounced back from Friday’s loss at Green Bay in a big way Monday night, shooting 10-for-14 from the field to lead the Crusaders past Milwaukee.

Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga)
49.7%, 47.0%, 83.6% = 180.3

Pangos played just 18 minutes in the Bulldogs’ blowout win over Pacific on Saturday, making three of his five three-point attempts.

Rayvonte Rice (Illinois)
51.5%, 48.3%, 80.3% = 180.1

Like Gibbs, Rice remains out of the lineup for Illinois due to injury (left wrist).

No. 3 Gonzaga takes away Saint Mary’s best scoring option in blowout victory

Kyle Wiltjer, Desmond Simmons
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In recent years the rivalry between Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga has developed into one of the best in the western United States, with the combination of skilled players and high stakes resulting in intense match-ups whether the game was being played during the regular season or WCC tournament. Thursday night the two programs met in Spokane with matching 7-0 conference records, and with Brad Waldow serving as their anchor in the post the Gaels are the biggest threat to Gonzaga’s quest to win yet another WCC regular season title.

But after Waldow accounted for ten points and five rebounds in the game’s first 20 minutes, keeping Saint Mary’s well within striking distance, the senior power forward was kept in check by the Gonzaga big men and the Bulldogs eventually won by the final score of 68-47.

Saint Mary’s may have shot a slightly higher percentage in the second half than they did in the first, but a lot of that damage was done early and with their primary scoring option neutralized the Gaels struggled mightily as the half wore on. Mark Few’s team shot 52.9% from the field on the night, with Kevin Pangos leading three players in double figures with 14 points while also dishing out five assists, and they limited Saint Mary’s to 36 percent shooting.

Against Waldow (14 points, 6-for-13 FG) the Bulldogs mixed things up defensively, sometimes defending him with a single player and in other spots sending over a second big to double Waldow. With Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer (they combined for 30 points and 31 rebounds) at his disposal, Few is able to defend a big man of Waldow’s caliber in multiple ways. With Waldow less effective, the Bulldogs were able to put together a 19-2 second half run that removed any doubt as to which team would win the game.

While Gonzaga has always been praised for its ability to put points on the board, the strides made defensively the last two years have been overlooked by some. This isn’t a group that’s going to rack up the “glamour” stats that tend to be referenced when the nation’s best defenses are discussed, as they’re in the middle of the pack nationally in both steals and blocks per game.

But they’re solid when it comes to positioning and limiting quality looks, forcing opponents to make contested shots more often than not. That’s resulted in Gonzaga leading the WCC in field goal percentage defense (38.4%) and trailing only Pepperdine in three-point percentage defense (30.6%). Thursday night, in addition to their 36 percent night from the field Saint Mary’s mad just two of its 15 three-pointers with guard Aaron Bright going scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting (0-for-5 3PT).

Thursday’s game can be viewed as Saint Mary’s missing out on an opportunity to bolster their resume with a win over the best team they’ve faced to date. But this was about Gonzaga, with the Bulldogs taking away Saint Mary’s best offensive option in the second half and handing the Gaels their biggest defeat of the season.

Chase for 180: Boise State rebounds from 0-3 conference start thanks to Derrick Marks

Derrick Marks, Ivo Basor
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The “Chase for 180″ is back for a second year, and for those who may not be familiar with the project it’s our attempt to identify some of the best shooters in America. But what makes one an “elite shooter?” For some it’s merely the ability to knock down perimeter shots at a high rate, but that isn’t the case for all players. High-level shooting requires proficiency from three, the field overall, and from the foul line. 

“180” refers to the resulting number when adding a player’s field goal, three-point and free throw percentages, with the best shooters either approaching or surpassing that mark. 50 percent or better from the field overall, 40 percent or better from three and 90 percent or better from the foul line. This achievement has occurred more often in college basketball than it has in the NBA, where just six players (Steve Nash did it in four different seasons) have done it in the history of the league. 

We’ll update this list throughout the season, with players also needing to qualify to be ranked by the NCAA in each of the three percentage categories in order to be considered. In order to qualify to be ranked a player needs to have played in at least 75 percent of his team’s games and have averaged: 

  • five or more field goal attempts per game;
  • two or more three-point attempts per game;
  • 2.5 or more free throw attempts per game.

To read prior installments of the Chase for 180, click here

Entering the 2014-15 season expectations were high for a Boise State team returning its two best players in seniors Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks, even with the graduation of all-Mountain West performer Ryan Watkins, as they were picked to finish second in the conference’s preseason poll. And if dealing with an inexperienced front court wasn’t tough enough for Leon Rice to do, there was also the loss of Drmic to back and ankle injuries.

Without Drmic, who averaged 15.9 points per game as a junior, even more would be asked of Marks from a scoring standpoint. And for a player who at times had issues with shot selection in 2013-14 (see: their home loss to San Diego State), this could be either a gift or a curse depending upon Marks’ shot discipline. After losing their first three conference games the Broncos have now won three in a row, and while the progress made by James Webb III has been key the most important factor has been Marks’ improvement.

After averaging 14.9 points per game as a junior Marks is up to 18.6 as a senior, and his percentages have improved as well. The senior has raised his field goal percentage by more than seven percentage points (51.7, from 44.1), and the improvements made from beyond the arc have been stunning. After making just 19 of his 66 attempts in 2013-14, through 19 games Marks is shooting 36-for-71 (50.7%) from three.

Marks may not be scoring from the foul line as often as he did last season, with his free throw rate being cut in half, but there’s been improved accuracy from both the mid-range (46.6% FG on two-point jumpers compared to 36.7% last season, per hoop-math.com) and from three. On the whole Boise State doesn’t get to the foul line all that often, ranking last in the conference in free throw rate (conference games only), but they’re still second in the Mountain West in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers even with the loss of Drmic.

The performance of Marks, who averaged 29.5 points per game and shot 52.4% from the field in wins over UNLV and New Mexico (we’re going to leave out last night’s 86-36 win over San Jose State), is the biggest reason why the Broncos have rebounded from their 0-3 start to conference play.

50-40-90 Club

Jack Gibbs, Davidson
51.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 90.8% FT = 183.9

Gibbs missed Davidson’s win over No. 22 Dayton with a slight tear in his meniscus, and he’ll be out of the lineup for a little while.

He’s Close to 50-40-90 Status

Derrick Marks, Boise State
51.7%, 50.7%, 84.3% = 186.7

Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington
50.6%, 48.8%, 85.2% = 184.6

Harvey’s scored 21 points or more in eight of Eastern Washington’s last nine games, and he’s a reason why the Eagles are now the favorites to win the Big Sky.

 

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
50.0%, 47.2%, 83.1% = 180.3

Still haven’t been able to see how the addition of Eric McClellan will impact Pangos due to McClellan’s foot injury, but the senior continues to lead the way for one of the nation’s best teams.

Eight More “180” Players

Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin
55.6%, 46.6%, 84.4% = 186.6

Why are the Lumberjacks 15-3 overall and 5-0 in Southland play? Parker’s one reason, as he’s shot 70 percent or better from the field in each of the last three games.

Justin Anderson, Virginia
50.6%, 52.7%, 79.7% = 183.0

With Georgia Tech in town, Anderson will look to rebound from his worst performance of the season (0-for-8 FG, zero points) in Saturday’s win at Boston College.

Richaud Gittens, Weber State
46.4%, 54.9%, 81.3% = 182.6

Given the amount of talent lost from last year’s NCAA tournament team, Gittens is one player the Wildcats needed to step up. The hope in Ogden is that his last three games (14.0 ppg, 71.4% FG, 9-for-10 3PT) are a sign that the sophomore is becoming a more consistent scoring option.

Alec Wintering, Portland
46.7%, 51.2%, 84.0% = 181.9

Wintering’s been kept in check the last three games, which were all defeats for the Pilots. He managed to score just five points (2-for-9 FG) in their loss at Pepperdine on Saturday.

Marcus Marshall, Missouri State
45.9%, 45.6%, 89.9% = 181.4

Marshall’s played his last game in a Missouri State uniform, as it was announced last week that he’ll be transferring in May.

Alec Peters, Valparaiso
49.6%, 47.0%, 84.0% = 180.6

Peters shot just 34.8% from the field in wins over Wright State and Youngstown State, and the Crusaders will need greater accuracy from their leading scorer if they’re to win at Green Bay Friday night.

Corey Hawkins, UC Davis
51.2%, 50.0%, 79.1% = 180.3

Jim Les’ Aggies remain undefeated in Big West play (4-0) with Hawkins, who’s shooting 50 percent from the field and 54.5% from three, being the biggest reason why.

Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
51.5%, 48.3%, 80.3% = 180.1

Rice (broken left hand) isn’t expected to return until sometime next month for the Fighting Illini.