- There's really not a whole lot we can say about yesterday's game. Gonzaga won but they way they played did not give us a whole lot of confidence with a now huge upcoming road game against Portland. There is no doubt that there was an emotional hangover from the win against St. Mary's two days before. The good news is that Gonzaga has five days until their next game so hopefully Mark Few can get them playing at a high level again. It's never good when two of your leading scorers, Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray, shoot a combined 1-12 from the field and only score nine points (all Bouldin's). On the flip side, I did like the way Jeremy Pargo played yesterday and thought that Josh Heytvelt had a great second half. Jeremy is one of those players that you hope drives to the hoop every time he gets the ball because there is not a player in this conference that can match his power and speed.
- People have been hard on Josh Heytvelt all season but the stats the he continues to put up are impressive. He is by far the quietest player on the floor for the Zags but whenever you look at the box score he always seems to have 13-16 points. He also did an excellent job on the glass last night pulling down nine rebounds. I've never really thought of Josh as a defensive stopper by any means but his greatest contribution may be coming on the defensive end this season. There is no doubt that Omar Samhan and Gyno Pomare are two of the best big men in the conference but they were reduced to footnotes in their match ups with the Zags. Pomare had six yesterday and never was comfortable in the post. Heytvelt has always been a player that has been described as a bouncy athlete with versatility but the defensive aspect to his game this season has been very impressive.
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- This is going to be a year to forget in the West Coast Conference. I can't imagine a worse year for this league. Just think about the things that have gone on this year. Two of the best players on two of the best teams in the conference, Brandon Johnson and Patty Mills, are seriously injured and BJ is out for the year. Loyola Marymount is in absolute shambles. Head coach Bill Bayno is no longer there, they are losing recruits at alarming rates...and oh yeah they have one win on the season. Pepperdine, USF, and Santa Clara are all hanging out in the 200's in the RPI and Pepperdine is the only one that is showing any real signs of life. No offense to the Portland Pilots but Patty Mills' injury has basically sealed up the regular season conference championship for Gonzaga. Nik Raivio is having a hell of a year and the Pilots have been extremely enjoyable to watch this year but I just can't imagine Portland beating Gonzaga on Thursday. The only good thing for the conference is that the WCC tournament could produce a heavyweight fight. Patty Mills should be healthy for the tourney so if Gonzaga and SMC take care of business, Gonzaga and St. Mary's Part III could be absolutely mind-blowing.
- As our great blog member coltin posted, St. Mary's appears to be falling off at a massive pace. I thought they would be able to keep it close in Portland but it was never a game. As good as their front court is with Simpson and Samhan, there back court is equally bad. Mickey McConnell and Carlin Hughes are just not ready to lead this team. McConnell plays a very nervous style of basketball and does not look like the confident leader that St. Mary's had with Mills. I'm trying not to turn this into a St. Mary's bashing post because I do genuinely feel bad for what happened to their program and Mills. The conference tournament system plays in their favor because Mills should be ready to lead them and with a couple wins, they could earn an automatic bid and turn the tables on Gonzaga.
- The injury to Mills opens up another opportunity for the rest of the conference and that is the player of the year competition. At this point in time I really have no clue who is going to be the WCC player of the year. At this point I would have guys like Dior Lowhorn, John Bryant, and Diamon Simpson as my front runners but the Dons and Broncos are so bad this season that it would be really hard for me to give it to them. Gonzaga has basically had a monopoly over the award in the recent past. Adam Morrison, Derek Raivio, and most recently Jeremy Pargo have all taken home the hardware but there really isn't one player that stands out on this Gonzaga team. I do believe that Austin Daye has the opportunity to steal the award if he continues to play the way he has been recently. Daye has been smooth and has begun to demand the ball more and more. He's playing with confidence right now so if that continues to translate into stats, he could win it. Other guys with some arguments include Nik Raivio and even Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin who has been excellent in conference play...except for yesterday.
- The newest member of the Gonzaga Bulldogs 2009 recruiting class was in attendance for the St. Mary's game. 6'10'' point-forward Kelly Olynyk is wiry thin but is one of the best players in Canada and should be an asset for this team. He is also one of those guys that just loves being a Zag. Not too much else going on at this point as far as recruiting goes. With Olynyk committing, the Victor Rudd talk is probably over, I imagine that Rudd was just a backup if Kelly went elsewhere. Sam Dower continues to play well and he is averaging about 25 points a game in Minnesota hoops. 2010 prospect Guy-Marc Michel is playing okay for the North Idaho College. Michel is averaging around ten points a game and eight boads. I'm still not quite sure if this kid is Kuso or Mamery Diallo. Hopefully the former.
That's all I got for today. We'll have more tonight but, just like the rest of America, we will be shutting down for the Super Bowl. My beloved Denver Broncos aren't in it but we all need to savor the last moments of football before Spring Training and baseball rolls around. 162 games...really?