It comes as little surprise to many that Gonzaga is in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic. A team that is regarded as the class of the tournament, the Bulldogs have done little to dispute that as they have largely cruised in Orlando. While Clemson pointed out some small flaws in this team, it was the Zags that were able to adapt and beat Brad Brownell's club at their own game. Against Oklahoma, the Zags overcame some of their early mistakes and sprinted past the helpless Sooners with little resistance. There have been a number of things that have stood out during the course of this tournament. Let's take a look at three major things that have jumped out to me after two solid wins.
1. Elias Harris is a deadly combination of freshman year explosiveness and junior year balance. Without a doubt, Elias has been one of my favorite Zags to watch during his career and the Old Spice Classic has provided a lot of clips for his highlight reel. What I have noticed most about Elias this season is that he is truly a complete player. He is back to providing highlight reel dunks and is also scrapping for loose balls and running the court with ease and, of course, he sprinkles in some threes from time to time. Harris has been at his best during the second half in each of the Old Spice Classic games but it doesn't mean he has been absent during the first twenty minutes. While many will point to Gonzaga's twin towers in Kelly Olynyk and Przemek Karnowski, it is Harris that is causing opponents fits and providing opportunities for his teammates.
2. Rebounding is not just about the bigs. Gonzaga put up a sensational rebounding performance last night. Ripping down 45 boards, including 13 offensive, to Oklahoma's 22, Zags at every position were taking part of the action. Kelly Olynyk and Sam Dower led the way with 8 and 6, respectively but what caught my eye the most was the backcourt guys battling with OU and getting those long rebounds, or '50-50' rebounds. David Stockton had six rebounds, Kevin Pangos had five, and Kyle Dranginis had four. It was a pretty amazing showing, especially in the second half as it seemed like the Zags were running circles around the Sooners and anticipating where the loose ball would wind up. We haven't seen such a complete rebounding performance like this in years and if the trend continues, this team will become that much more dangerous.
3. Early impressions of Kelly Olynyk are very positive. Talking to friends and family about Kelly Olynyk really put things into perspective: the guy on the court now for the Zags is simply not the same guy that played over a year ago. When you compare the two players, this version of Kelly Olynyk is composed and confident. The Olynyk that played over a year ago seemed constantly out of place and not ready for the situations he was put in by the staff. The decision to redshirt him appears to be an incredibly good one. Kelly is moving without the ball, creating for himself and others, and is finally comfortable in his own body. Kelly will draw comparisons to guys like Sean Mallon but Mallon didn't possess near the skill Olynyk has and it is really great to see him performing so well. I had my doubts heading into the Old Spice, but it is pretty darn clear to see why Mark Few was so eager to get him off suspension.
A word on Davidson... While this matchup doesn't feature the allure of the power conferences, it should absolutely be one of the best games of the early season. Just as Gonzaga will be linked for a long time to Adam Morrison, Davidson has been linked to Steph Curry and that fact will probably allow Davidson to fly under the radar. Make no mistake, this is one of the best non-BCS teams and a team that can advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament should they get favorable matchups. The Wildcats return every major contributor from a team that was so close to knocking off Louisville in last season's NCAA Tournament. This season, they have dropped two games so far. They lost on the road to New Mexico, a game which they were dominating but let the lead slip away and they also lost to Milwaukee on the road a few days later. They narrowly advanced to the title game over West Virginia by a score of 63-60. Davidson is paced by veteran forwards De'Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen. The pair are averaging 18 and 11 points per game, respectively. With that said, it is a very experienced, talented, and deep roster as they have eight players that average more than 20 minutes per game.
The Zags and Wildcats tip off Sunday at 4 PM pacific time. Make sure to swing on by for our live game thread!