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Leave Gonzaga Alone, The Bulldogs Are As Good As They Look

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Gonzaga at St Mary's

 

It seems that every year college basketball fans and so-called experts ask the same questions about the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Are they really as good as their record suggests? Can a mid-major from a top-heavy conference actually hang with college basketball’s best? Will the Bulldogs crumble on the sport’s biggest stage?

For 18 straight seasons, Gonzaga has answered those questions with a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and during that time, head coach Mark Few has built a program that’s currently 26-0, ranked no.1 in the nation and respected on every college court in the country. But that flawless record has these Bulldogs dreaming big.

Guided by five players currently averaging at least 10.0 points per game, including top scorer and Wooden Award candidate Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga is no one-sided wonder and ranks eighth in the nation in points allowed [61.7 ppg], while averaging a healthy 85.1 points per game—good for 13th in the NCAA. And along with a pair of productive seven-footers in freshman Zach Collins and senior Przemek Karnowski, the Bulldogs also boast a dangerously deep rotation.

Over the weekend, Gonzaga relied on that depth to defeat West Coast Conference rival St. Mary’s 74-64 with a total team effort that saw four players finish with at least 12 points. On paper, the 20th-ranked Gaels represented the last opponent with a real shot to spoil Gonzaga’s perfect WCC season. But while the Bulldogs shot just 37.5 percent from long-range, Few’s flawless record was never in any real danger.

Following Saturday’s victory, Karnowski told reporters that the Bulldogs aren’t worried about outside opinions and critics who question the quality of their schedule.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Karnowski. “I have my teammates. I have my coaches. And that’s all that matters. We work hard in little Spokane, Washington. We come to work everyday. We try to get better every week. And that’s all that matters. Doesn’t matter what other people say. We had challenges this year. We met every challenge that was put in front of us, and that’s how we need to respond.”

The Bulldogs’ latest response—last Saturday’s win, will probably be its most convincing until the madness of March begins. Once again, Gonzaga’s conference schedule has been the college basketball equivalent of batting practice, and as usual, that’s been more than enough to spark debate, and even widespread doubt, about the Bulldogs’ post-season potential.

In November, Gonzaga earned a pair of consecutive power conference wins over 15th-ranked Florida and the NCAA Tournament-bound Iowa State Cyclones at the Advocare Invitational. But the Bulldogs’ most impressive win of the current campaign came in early December when they beat the fifth-ranked Arizona Wildcats 69-62 on a neutral court at the inaugural Hoophall L.A. doubleheader.

As an 11-seed at last season’s big dance, Few led his 28-win Bulldogs to lopsided victories over sixth-seeded Seton Hall and third-seeded Utah before falling to tenth-seeded Syracuse 63-60 in Gonzaga’s second straight trip to the Sweet 16 and seventh since 1999. And during it’s 18-year reign as the monster of the mid-majors, Gonzaga has only failed to advance beyond the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on three occasions.

Including its two conference wins over St. Mary’s, Gonzaga is a perfect 5-0 against teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top-25. It won’t be the best resume that the committee sees on Selection Sunday–that honor will go to a power conference big shot. But according to the latest edition of Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology”, Gonzaga is currently one of the tourney’s four top seeds along with Villanova, Baylor, and Kansas, and despite their critics, that’s exactly where these Bulldogs belong.

NCAA Basketball

Louisiana Tech Sports Facilities Damaged by Tornado

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A deadly tornado, which has been linked to the death of at least 5 people across two states, damaged several sports facilities located on the campus of Louisiana Tech, according to ESPN.

While no injuries have been reported among the students at the school, two people were killed when the storm ripped through Ruston, Louisiana and caused a tree to fall onto their home.

The school is closed on Thursday and Friday, and the following images were shared on Twitter by the Athletic’s Department, showcasing some of the damage.

National Weather Service hydrologist C. S. Ross said that the deadly tornado cut a track over 130 miles from eastern Texas to near the Louisiana-Arkansas border.

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NCAA Basketball

Video Surfaces Showing Agent Christian Dawkins Promoting Connections to Top Coaches

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Another layer has unraveled in the college basketball corruption trial on Wednesday when a video recording of a conversation about paying college coaches and athletes was played on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Paula Lavigne.

In the video dated June 6th 2017, aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins brags about his connections to top NCAA basketball coaches, including Arizona head coach Seam Miller.

When referring to incoming (at the time) Arizona player Deandre Ayton (who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns) Dawkins says Miller told him, “I’m taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I’ll turn everything over to you.”

Dawkins is currently on trial for allegedly bribing college coaches.

Marty Blazer, a former financial advisor who was being questioned by prosecutors and who was present for the conversation, said the reference was about Miller “taking care” of payments for Ayton.

“Sean Miller has to know everything that’s going on. I can call Sean and have a conversation … like this is what is needing to be done,” Dawkins said on the video. He said that Miller is, “talking on the phone about stuff he shouldn’t be talking on the phone about.”

Unites States District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled back on Friday that defense attorneys could not subpoena Miller and LSU’s Will Wade to testify during the federal bribery trial.

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Rick Barnes Says He Would Have Left Tennessee if UCLA Paid Buyout

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Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes could have been the next head coach for UCLA, instead of Mick Cronin, if only the Bruins were willing to open up their wallets.

Barnes says that if UCLA would have promised to pay Barnes’ $5 million buyout, he would have left Tennessee to take the job at UCLA.

“I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes said (h/t ESPN). “I’ve said that to people before. I really felt at that time that’s what would happen.”

Barnes was honest and open with his decision process during the news conference, saying that he struggled with making a final decision due to financial matters.

Barnes has since agreed to a new deal with Tennessee that will pay him $4 million per year before increasing to a $6 million annual sum by the end of the contract and provide more cash for his assistants.

“I’m supposed to be at Tennessee,” Barnes said. “And it’s really above and beyond the basketball program. I’m in love with this community. I’m in love with this state. I just think we got a lot of great things going on in this town.”

“A lot of praying went into it, I can tell you that,” Barnes said. “There was a lot going on. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. Bottom line is we couldn’t work it out with the buyout.”

Barnes also informed UCLA that he would not depart Knoxville without talking to athletic director Phillip Fulmer and others in the community.

I told them point blank, ‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with my team,'” Barnes said. “‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with people here that have been really good to me.’ … I said, ‘You just can’t say send a plane tomorrow and we’re leaving. I’m going to make sure this is done the right way.'”

“There was one time in my mind I truly felt that’s what would happen,” Barnes said about potentially taking the UCLA offer. “It got to that point where I felt like my prayers had been answered.”

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