Amelia Rayno's College Basketball Insider: Can Dower, Gonzaga return to glory?

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 11, 2013 - 11:15 PM
hide

Gonzaga center Sam Dower, right,

Photo: Brody Schmidt, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Saying Gonzaga is going to make the NCAA tournament is hardly a prediction. After all, the Bulldogs have gone every season since 1999.

Once there, however, the Zags haven’t exactly added to their résumé lately. They haven’t advanced to the Elite Eight since Year 1 of the run — Gophers fans will recall that team beat shorthanded Minnesota in the first round behind the coaching talent of Dan Monson, who months later was hired by the Gophers.

But the last of five Sweet 16 appearances for the midmajor from Spokane, Wash., came in 2009. Since then, the Bulldogs have won their NCAA tournament opener in three consecutive years before being dumped in the round of 32 by higher-seeded opponents.

That brings us to this season — and arguably the most talented team coach Mark Few has put together, a balanced squad with a refined, intriguing offense.

Is this year the year the Zags will make a splash?

“We haven’t made it out of the second round ever since I’ve been here, so that’s a big focus,” said Sam Dower, a 6-9 junior center who starred locally at Osseo High School. “I think this team has a good chance to make a big impact when it comes to talking about tournament time … but we want to get past the second round and going deeper than the Sweet 16, deeper than the Elite Eight. We want to make it to the Final Four.”

Why stop there? The other mighty midmajor Bulldogs — Butler — advanced to back-to-back NCAA title games in 2010 and ’11, becoming an inspiration, Dower said, to Gonzaga.

Gonzaga (16-1) will get the chance to compare itself with No. 14 Butler when the two schools play in Indianapolis next Saturday, but the Zags have other business on their minds as well. Last season, for the first time in 15 years, a team not named Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference regular-season title and the conference tournament; St. Mary’s took both prizes. Gonzaga got some revenge Thursday with an 83-78 victory over St. Mary’s, but there is a lot of season left to play.

“We kind of had a chip on our shoulders from not winning that because we were coming in this year as not the best team in the West Coast Conference, so we had no bragging rights,” Dower said.

So players spent more time as a group in the weight room and gym during the summer, said Dower, who is averaging 7.5 points per game. Guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell have greatly improved, while surprise star Kelly Olynyk — a 7-footer who redshirted after his sophomore season for developmental reasons — has helped to root a frontcourt that already had senior Elias Harris.

After getting seeded eighth in the 2010 tournament, 11th in 2011 and seventh last year, Gonzaga is listed in early projections as high as a No. 2 seed — and the team has jumped to No. 9 in the AP poll, one spot behind the Gophers. But Gonzaga’s key to maintaining all of that is ignoring it, Dower said, noting the team avoids reading about itself as a rule.

“Usually when you have a team with good players, they think it’s all about them and whatnot, but that’s not a problem with this team,” he said. “We’re all out there for one thing, which ultimately is to win the NCAA tournament.”

SHORT TAKES

• Just how hard a player is working is typically subjective, but John Calipari has discovered a way to know for sure.

The Kentucky coach recently started having players wear heart-monitoring devices in practices and games to track exertion rates, caloric expenditures and heart rates. Wow — my first thought is that the results could vary deceivingly for players whose hearts naturally start pumping faster and quicker than others. But then, Calipari noted it’s a good tool to also know when to back off a player.

To Calipari’s credit, he has talked about the importance of the other stuff, too — you know, instilling toughness the old-school way — but has lamented that the lack of veterans this year leaves the Wildcats without much of a culture of work ethic. I have to admit, it’s interesting — if also incredibly intense. But hey, that’s Coach Cal.

• A new and interesting era for college basketball could be right around the corner. John Infante of the NCAA’s Bylaw Blog reported this week that the NCAA Leadership Council has brainstormed a potential new rule affecting transfers. Basically, if a player had a 2.6 grade-point average or higher, he or she would not have to sit out a year before playing at a new school, as is the case now. It’s in the discussion phase now, but if approved the rule could go into effect for the 2014-15 season. This idea has come into play because of dissatisfaction with current transfer rules, but the new rule could raise all sorts of interesting issues of its own.

• The player who recorded an NCAA-record 138 points in a game in November is now done for the season. Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor fractured his right (shooting) wrist in a game Wednesday, and the rehab will keep him out for the rest of the year. The sophomore was averaging 36.3 points for the Division III Pioneers.

BIG TEN POWER POLL

1. Michigan: Until the Wolverines lose, their spot at the top seems pretty safe.

2. Indiana: The Hoosiers are shooting an incredible 51.1 percent from the field and have continued to take care of business in the conference.

3. Minnesota: With a win over Illinois, the Gophers are certainly challenging the top.

4. Michigan State: Just like Indiana, the Spartans were given a scare by Iowa, but they’ve finished most games well.

5. Illinois: The win over the Buckeyes seems less impressive in light of two league losses.

6. Ohio State: The Buckeyes are 2-1 in the conference so far, but they have still lost against every ranked team they’ve played this season.

7. Iowa: Even if the Hawkeyes aren’t WINNING their Big Ten games, I’m intrigued by the grit they’ve shown.

8. Purdue: Right now, it’s looking like the Illinois win was just a fluke.

9. Wisconsin: The easiest start to the league season has been enjoyed by the Badgers. We’ll know more about them after this weekend.

10. Nebraska: The Huskers did something Northwestern and Iowa couldn’t do — make a game against the Wolverines interesting.

11. Northwestern: The Wildcats had to go to State College to end their slide.

12. Penn State: We all knew it would be a tough year without Tim Frazier.

 

 

 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 85 4th Qtr 1:47
Utah 91
Denver 57 3rd Qtr 9:20
Portland 66
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 7:14
Vancouver 2
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close