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2017 NCAA Tournament: Zach Collins makes name for himself on national stage

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One of the best players for the Zags in their first two games is their young center.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Gonzaga vs Northwestern Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have had a couple of interesting NCAA Tournament games this year. In their opening round win over South Dakota State, it took Gonzaga nearly 20 minutes to figure out how to put away their opponent. Against Northwestern, it was nearly the opposite. The Zags had to hold off a furious rally to advance to the Sweet 16.

Both games featured some ugly spells of generic offense, but one of the few consistent efforts in both games belongs to freshman center Zach Collins.

Collins finished with the second highest offensive rating in both games. Over the two contests, he has averaged 12 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks, all in just 21 minutes per game.

Most importantly, Collins has demonstrated that when Przemek Karnowski leaves the floor, the Zags aren’t necessarily getting worse. Against South Dakota State, Karnowski was smothered on every single possession. Few ended up leaving Collins in for more time than Karnowski, and Collins completely changed the defensive scheme for the Jackrabbits.

Against Northwestern, Collins made a name for himself as the guy who committed the goal tend that the referee missed, which made Coach Collins storm onto the court, which made the referee give Collins a technical, which gave the Zags two free points and possession of the ball and a huge momentum shift in a close game.

But Collins also blocked three other shots in that game. He was also sensational with his low post moves. Against Northwestern, all of his shots came from near the hoop, and he punished the Wildcats with two consecutive and-ones in the midway through the second half.

On the defensive end, the block heard round the world was the one that shouldn’t have happened. But in both games, Collins defense has been stellar. He has shown his quick feet on his defense during a mismatch, blocking this shot that led to some quick Gonzaga points.

Here Collins is running down the court, and he showcases his drive and determination in swatting the ball into the nether regions of Utah.

Collins is making a big name for himself this NCAA Tournament. He has already started to appear in the mid-teens on many 2017 NBA mock draft board sites. There is a good reason for this. Collins is shooting efficiently on the floor, 66 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the free throw line. He hit one of his two threes against South Dakota State. In both games, when seemingly the rest of the squad couldn’t buy a bucket, Collins was the motor that jumpstarted the team.

He has demonstrated this ability all year. Some games, it was hamstrung by freshman fouls. In the NCAA Tournament, Collins has been everything advertised and then some. As he is playing right now, he looks like he could be the first one and done in school history. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that. But for now, enjoy it while you can.