Rick Bozich, longtime sports columnist at the Louisville Courier-Journal, updated his blog Thursday morning with a post titled "Confusion reigns in college hoops." It was about the wackiness that has turned much of this season into an unpredictable mess, highlighted by the most recent example, North Carolina's uninspired loss at Clemson that has the Tar Heels needing a weekend win over Georgia Tech to avoid dropping from the national rankings.
In other words, it's possible UNC's not good.
|Elias Harris is the latest Bulldog to come in and pick right up where his predecessors left off. (US Presswire)|
"I think that's the greatest thing we've been able to accomplish here," Few said by phone. "Somebody showed me a stat, and if we win the league this year we'll move ahead of Adolph Rupp's Kentucky teams [on the list of consecutive league titles], and we'll be tied with [Jerry Tarkanian's teams] at UNLV. That's the coolest thing we've done. We've stayed relevant."
It's more than cool.
It's remarkable, especially in the current era of college basketball. Oklahoma has gone from being ranked No. 1 last season to struggling to beat anybody this season while UCLA has gone from making three of the past four Final Fours to losing to multiple non-BCS opponents because it's difficult to overcome too much roster turnover in this sport.
Still, the Zags enter Thursday night's game at Saint Mary's ranked 17th nationally and with a 12-3 record featuring wins over Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Illinois, Oklahoma and Portland, all of which have been ranked at some point. And they're doing this despite losing four of their top five scorers from last season, namely Josh Heytvelt (14.9 ppg), Austin Daye (12.7 ppg) Jeremy Pargo (10.2 ppg) and Micah Downs (9.6 ppg).
"Outside of North Carolina, we lost more than anybody," Few said. "We lost four guys who are playing professionally. I mean, we lost a lot."
And it doesn't matter one bit.
Because it never matters at Gonzaga.
All the losses of Heytvelt, Daye, Pargo and Downs meant was that that Matt Bouldin would have to take on a more consistent and expanded scoring load, that Steven Gray and Robert Sacre would need to transform from role players to instrumental starters, and that newcomer Elias Harris would be asked to make an immediate impact. Every one of those things happened, and none of them are a surprise except for Harris, a 6-foot-7 forward from Germany who is averaging 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds as a freshman.
"He's a smart kid, a quick learner, not afraid," Few said. "He's been pretty level-headed and just right on."
And so the Zags are right on, too.
Barring an unexpected collapse, they'll win their 10th consecutive West Coast Conference title and make the NCAA tournament for the 12th straight season. Then Gonzaga will lose Bouldin to graduation and possibly Harris to the NBA Draft. But history suggests it won't matter.
"Don't jinx us," Few said with a laugh.
As if that's even possible.