Gonzaga taking control of West Coast Conference

By David A.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are once again ripping through the West Coast Conference with a 10-0 conference record and an overall record of 23-2. Ranked No. 8 in the nation the Bulldogs will have their toughest conference test when they face Saint Mary’s away on Thursday. The Bulldogs were able to hold off Saint Mary’s a month ago 83-78, but will now have to play in front of a raucous crowd.

Gonzaga moved up this week in the national rankings and now sits in the AP rankings at No. 5 and the USA Today poll at No. 3. Last week resulted in numerous upsets that helped the Bulldogs climb to their current ranking. It was the highest the Bulldogs have reached in the rankings since December of 2008 when they were ranked No. 4.

Gonzaga even received two first place votes in the AP poll and one in the coaches poll. Coach Mark Few said it means much more to be ranked No. 5 during mid February than it does in mid November.

Thursday’s game will likely give the Bulldogs the conference regular season championship if they win. A win would give them a two-game edge over second place Saint Mary’s and a tiebreaker edge with two wins. If Saint Mary’s can upset the Bulldogs, then the conference standings will have Saint Mary’s up be a half game due to a game in hand.

Kyle Dranginis and Drew Barham will play against the Gaels on Thursday. Both Bulldogs’ did not see playing time in the first game between the two but figure to play key roles on Thursday.

Dranginis is starting seeing more playing time at the small forward slot. The offensive boost the two have given the team has been helpful during the tough conference schedule. Barham has knocked down 9 out of 14 shots from behind the three-point line in the last five games for Gonzaga.

Kelly Olynyk the junior forward for the Bulldogs has been showing up more and more on mock draft boards for this year’s NBA draft. He insists it is not the time to be discussing the NBA, as the team is trying to focus on winning the conference and playing in the NCAA tournament. The junior is averaging nearly 18 points and 7 rebounds per game.

Following Thursday’s game, the Bulldogs will face a tough University of San Francisco team away on Saturday February 16, Santa Clara on February 20 and San Diego on February 23.

By no means will the conference be over if the Bulldogs win but with Brigham Young in third place in the conference standings and four losses back in the loss column the Bulldogs only threat would be the Gaels and they would been two losses back, both to the Bulldogs.