Gonzaga tops, Indiana stymies, Marquette goes streaking, Otto Porter dazzles, and Kansas has the Mac.
In yet another ranking roulette of a college basketball weekend, teams staked some loud claims.
Gonzaga takes over as the #1 team in AP’s Top 25 poll. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are playing perhaps the best basketball in the history of their program. They stand at a Division I best 29-2 record, remaining undefeated in the West Coast Conference. Gonzaga’s #1 ranking is no slight of hand. The Bulldogs are a good passing team. They average 15.5 assists per game, leading their conference. With that being said, the ‘Zags owe much of their success to their shooting. Gonzaga is the third most efficient offense in college basketball, shooting just over 50% from the field as a team. One can imagine head coach Mark Few especially enjoys his team’s status as college basketball’s top team. In his first year heading the program, Gonzaga had won four games all season. Elias Harris led the ‘Zags with 20 points (8-13 from the field) nine rebounds, four steals, and zero turnovers.>
Though Indiana’s loss to Minnesota effectively took their #1 ranking away, the Hoosiers rediscovered their stifling defense in a 73-60 win against Iowa. The win put Indiana’s record in the Big Ten at a conference best 13-3. More importantly, it helped the Hoosiers bounce back. Indiana’s Cody Zeller played with a tenacity that went beyond is 21 point, 10 rebound double-double. Having been the primary victim of Minnesota’s interior scoring earlier in the week, Zeller took it upon himself to throw his body around. He was diving for practically every loose ball. Indiana’s big man spearheaded an inspired defensive effort that held Iowa to just 14 points in the first half. That defense would prove crucial as the Hoosiers shot just 39% from the field. As Zeller put it, “when you’re getting stops, you’re OK.”
Marquette wins its 25th consecutive home game, their 72-64 victory earning the Golden Eagles a double bye in the Big East tournament. Senior center Chris Otule, who has been struggling with consistency this season, put in a gem of a performance. Otule finished with 16 points on a perfect 8-8 shooting from the field. He added 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist. Secondary units were the story in this one as Marquette’s bench scored 32 to Notre Dame’s 20. The Fighting Irish were largely without the services of last year’s Big East Most Improved Player, Jack Cooley, who was limited to 15 minutes due to illness.
Otto Porter continues to make his case as the ACC’s best player, spurring the Georgetown Hoyas to a 64-51 win over Rutgers. This marked the 11th straight win for the Hoyas and helped maintain their position at the top of the Big East. Porter led the way for Georgetown, filling the stat sheet up with 28 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks, and 2 assists. More than half of those points came at the free throw line, where Porter knocked down 15 of 18 shots. “They’re free, so you want to shoot free throws”, Porter said. As we draw closer to March, Porter continues to display dazzling versatility in his rise up NBA draft boards. He’s now the seventh best NBA prospect in NBADraft.net’s top 100. Rutgers head coach Mike Rice is convinced that the sophomore forward is an obvious pick for the Big East’s Player of the Year award. In fact, Rice goes even further to suggest, “If he keeps continuing this, it’s not even close for National Player of the Year.”
McLemore leads Kansas to 91-65 rout over West Virginia. The Jayhawks’ freshman guard was nearly flawless in his 36 point explosion against WVU. McLemore shot 12-15 from the field, hitting 5 of his 6 three point attempts. It’s his fifth three that would be the night’s most special shot. McLemore’s fifth hit from deep pushed his total on the game ahead of the Jayhakws’ highest freshman scoring performance. Danny Manning scored 35 against Oklahoma State back in 1985. Kansas head coach Bill Self was on the other end of Manning’s scoring eruption that game, playing on Oklahoma State as a guard. “I think he got like 20 on me”, recalls Self. McLemore’s teammate Jeff Withey had a stat-stuffing line of 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 boards. “I was one block away [from a triple double]”, said Withey. “And I felt pretty good about that.”