NCAA Hoops: is Gonzaga the Best Out West?
Much of the attention in the Western part of the college basketball world is paid to the Pac 12 and Mountain West Conferences. These conferences boast of several top programs such as the #7 Arizona Wildcats, the #15 New Mexico Lobos, the #19 Oregon Ducks, the San Diego State Aztecs and the UCLA Bruins. But the best team out west may not be from either league. The #6 Gonzaga Bulldogs lead the West Coast Conference with a record of 21-2 and 8-0. The Bulldogs may be the best team out west and the most likely to make it to the Final Four.
They are led by seven footer Kelly Olynyk who averages 18 points and 7 rebounds per game. He may be the breakout star out west this year. Elias Harris adds 15 points per game and Kevin Pangos averages over 11 points. Gonzaga survived a scare from the San Diego Toreros on Saturday in a 65-63 win. they were led by Harris with 18 points in that one. They will take on the Pepperdine Waves on Thursday. Their toughest games will be nest Thursday when they take on the St. Mary’s Gaels on the road and on February 28 when they visit the BYU Cougars.
Gonzaga could end up with a number one seed should they win out and win the West Coast Conference Tournament. Their only losses on the year are to the Illinois Illini and Butler Bulldogs. The Illinois loss is looking worse all the time however as they keep dropping in the Big Ten. Also Butler has lost twice since beating the Bulldogs. Still, they should be no worse than a #2 should they win out. That would put them in a match-up with a #15 in their first NCAA Tournament game.
If the Bulldogs are not the best out west, then that distinction would belong to the Wildcats. Arizona leads the way in the PAC 12. They are 19-2 overall and 7-2 in the PAC 12. Led by Mark Lyons with 15 points per game, Solomon Hill with 14 per game and Nick Johnson with 13 per game.
Arizona’s win over the #2 Florida Gators looks better and better all the time. They also have wins over San Diego State and the #8 Miami Hurricanes, another win that is looking better all the time.
If Arizona can win out the rest of the way, with those wins over the SEC leading Gators and ACC leading Hurricanes, they too could be in the running for a #1 seed. Their toughest remaining game is the next to last one at UCLA, one of the two teams to beat them so far.