**Programming Note: We'll be joining the guys from 1080 The Fan In Portland At 4:30 Pacific Today. You can listen here
Wrapping Up BYU
What a game. What an ugly, frustrating, beautiful game that made me rip out quite a bit of my hair. In the end, the Zags hit the Vegas line of 5 right on the number as they took down BYU 70-65. While I have seen a good number of back and forth between the opposing viewpoints: "This proves the Zags can win when they aren't playing well" and "We should be worried that the Zags didn't play well" and I tend to agree with the former view a bit more. While it is nice to play at an extremely high level at all times, this team has put together an incredible stretch of basketball since (and partially including) the Butler game. I don't really have much fear that this game means that Pangos is approaching a cold streak or that Harris is a bit off...I just think BYU threw their biggest haymaker and the Bulldogs stayed standing.
While there were a lot of nice storylines from last night, I woke up this morning thinking two things: Gary Bell playing well offensively and hitting shots really does make up for a lot and thank god Mark Few fouled when the Zags were up three late in the game. Outside of Kelly Olynyk's incredible rise and some of Mike Hart's heroics, I think Gary Bell's rise during the back half of the season has been a top story for the Zags. When he is hitting, it takes so much pressure off the bigs as it stretches the floor for them to work and it takes pressure of Pangos to be so heavily relied on and he can focus on distributing the ball more. Many have said this team will go as far as Gary will take them and, while it is odd to hear that given how post-driven this team is, there is some validity. Few's choice to foul was outstanding. BYU had an awkward inbounds spot that didn't really lend itself to the immediate catch and shoot which made it easy for the Zags to foul without the dreaded shot attempt occurring. While there is no absolute fact whether or not fouling is the best decision, it worked out beautifully for the Bulldogs last night.
Saint Mary's Sanctions
This morning, the NCAA released some pretty harsh sanctions on the Saint Mary's program. Here are the major bullet points:
Public reprimand and censure. Four years probation from March 1, 2013 through February 28, 2017. The head coach must serve a five-game suspension during the 2013-14 season. The head coach may not recruit off-campus during the 2013-14 academic year. A two-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach. The public report contains further details. Reduction of men's basketball scholarships from 13 to 11 for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. Elimination of foreign tours by the men's basketball team until the start of the 2017-18 season. The men's basketball team may not participate in a multiple-team event until the 2015-16 season. The men's basketball team may not receive skill instruction during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
These are not small sanctions by any means. Sanctions against a big-time, BCS program like a USC, Indiana, or Oregon are one thing but you have got to wonder how a small, private institution like Saint Mary's reacts to these penalties. The fact that Bennett can't recruit off campus for a year is pretty major as is the suspension and scholarship reductions.
It will be interesting to see how Saint Mary's reacts. I don't think this is a killer for Randy Bennett but one must wonder if Saint Mary's returns to mediocre play due to these sanctions. As for Gonzaga, one must wonder how this impacts their desire to leave the WCC. It has been heavily reported that the Zags are active in poking around with other conferences. If they think the Gaels are likely to be severely hampered by these sanctions, than it is just another reason for the Bulldogs to explore other affiliations for the basketball program.
Getting Misty-Eyed About Senior Night
On Saturday night, the Kennel will say goodbye to three incredible seniors. Guy Landry Edi, Elias Harris, and Mike Hart will all be playing their final NCAA game in the MAC on Saturday night and it is sure to be a great night. The three seniors have the opportunity to likely deliver the Zags to the mountain top of the regular season: An undefeated WCC regular season and title and likely the No. 1 ranking heading into the conference tournament.
Specifically, Mike Hart and Elias Harris are a couple guys that will live on for a long, long time in Gonzaga lore. Harris, for my money, is one of the best players to ever come through the program and his career has been such a pleasure to watch. From a huge freshman year, to an injury riddled sophomore year, and then the amazing transformation as a junior and senior from "what an amazing athlete" to "what a well-rounded and skilled basketball player". I think back to Elias Harris when he first signed on at Gonzaga because we did not even know he existed until a West Coast Conference press release said he had signed an LOI. If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane, here are some of our posts about Harris around the time we found out he was headed to Spokane:
Solving the Mystery Recruit: Learning More About Elias Harris - The Slipper Still Fits
Mike Hart is also a guy that will go down as one of the most beloved Zags of all time. His senior year has easily been his best yet as he has come up big time and time again. We'll have more on all the seniors as we get ready for their final game at the Kennel.