Seattle Sounders Highlights vs FC Dallas

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Gonzaga Bulldogs: 2011 Recruiting Class Paying Massive Dividends for Mark Few & Zags

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have never quite been able to recruit the same level of talent out of high school as the likes of Kentucky, Duke and Kansas, however GU has firmly cemented its place alongside those three schools in the College Basketball hierarchy by recruiting players who not only fit their system and culture, but players that they can develop.

The Zags also tend to find gems on the international market with future NBA players Ronny Turiaf, Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre all coming from outside the states. The Zags have two future NBA players on their roster in European big men Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis.

Despite the lack of McDonalds All-Americans, Mark Few has put together impressive recruiting classes in the past. 2007 brought Sacre and another future NBA player in Austin Daye as well as fellow top-100 recruit Steven Gray who flourished as one of the team’s best players.

While the 2011 class didn’t bring the size that 2007’s brought, the group of players to arrive in Spokane in 2011 has helped propel GU to its first Sweet 16 since 2009. This year’s incarnation of Gonzaga may be Mark Few’s best, and could reach the school’s first Final Four. While a lot of this has to do with the Zags’ daunting frontline, featuring a three-headed monster of Karnowski, Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, a lot of it has to do with the backcourt.

Starting guards, and products of the 2011 recruiting class, Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. have sacrificed a lot in order to make the team better. Both have seen their per-game scoring numbers drop by nearly three points each. Bell Jr. is often tasked with checking the opposition’s best permitted defender while Pangos rarely gets a breather, playing 35 or minutes on 22 occasions this season.

Despite their sacrifices, Pangos and Bell Jr. form one of the best backcourts in the country.

Pangos is an unflappable floor-general who is lethal from three-point land (44.9% this season) and can beat you off the dribble with a potent array of layups and floaters. If Gonzaga weren’t incredibly blessed with a wealth of scoring options, it would surprise no one to see Pangos’ per-game scoring approach 20 points. Oh yeah, he’d probably start on just about every team in the country… including Kentucky.

His backcourt mate Bell Jr. is one of the best defenders in the country. Despite a 6’2” frame that puts him at a height disadvantage, Bell Jr. can lock down almost anyone on the perimeter. Just ask BYU’s Tyler Haws, who despite having a height advantage of three inches and being one of the best scores in the country, struggled mightily against the Zags due to the presence of Bell Jr. Haws’ bread and butter is the contested mid-range jumper, but he managed shooting nights of 6-14, 3-11 and 4-12 against Gonzaga. And oh yeah, Bell Jr. can knock down the three as well. He shot 47.7% as a freshman and still manages a similarly deadly 37.7 clip this season. Similar to Pangos, if GU had fewer weapons or if Bell Jr. were at a bigger school with less firepower, he’d likely be a 15 point-per-game scorer.

In addition to Pangos and Bell Jr., Few also brought in Idaho native Kyle Dranginis as well.  Dranginis operates as the team’s hustle monger off the bench, always challenging for offensive rebounds, loose balls and blocked shots despite being shorter than a good portion of the opposition. He only averages 4.1 points a contest, but if it weren’t for the presence of USC-transfer Byron Wesley, Dranginis would be starting and easily averaging double-figures in points per game. Despite only scoring three points in the team’s round-of-32 win over Iowa, he had a steal, a block, two rebounds and four assists. He fills the stat sheet for the Zags. In win at Sweet Sixteen opponent UCLA in December, Dranginis totaled five points, six rebounds and five assists. He also had a steal and a made three pointer.

Due to freshman Josh Perkins’ broken jaw and Eric McClellan’s acclimation process, Few has largely depended on a backcourt rotation of Pangos, Bell Jr. and Dranginis down the stretch.

In addition to those three, GU’s 2011 recruiting class is also paying dividends elsewhere. Forward Ryan Spangler transferred to Oklahoma to be closer to home and has helped the Sooners to the Sweet Sixteen with 9.9 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per contest. He posted seven double-doubles this season and reached double-figures in rebounding in 12 contests.

The remaining members of the 2011 class have propelled the Zags to a point where they can reach the program’s first final four. They’ve definitely earned it.

Seattle Links: NBA, Michael Bennett, Seahawks, Mariners, Gonzaga

Gonzaga Sweet Sixteen: Stats to Know from Zags First Two Wins

  • 20

20, the number of rebounds by freshman Domantas Sabonis over the first two games. The burgeoning star also poured in 27 points over the weekend, including 18 in the round of 32 trashing of Iowa.

  • 34

24, the number of points scored by Kevin Pangos in the opening two games, including a whopping eight three pointers with four coming in teach game. Pangos handed out eight assists and only turned the ball over twice.

  • 23

23, points scored by Kyle Wiltjer in the opening round win over North Dakota State. Wiltjer outdid himself in the next round, posting 24 points in the win over Iowa. The former Kentucky Wildcat dropped 57 points on a mere 24 shots. Overall he’s 18-for-24. Talk about efficiency.

  • 2

2, maybe the most important stat of all, Gonzaga recorded two wins over the first two games of the tournament, advancing to their first Sweet Sixteen since 2009.

  • 62.5

62.5, the percentage GU shot from distance in the 87-68 thumping of Iowa.

For more March Madness coverage from Know Hitter, click here. You can also view my tournament picks (some good some bad) for the West and South Regions here, my picks for the Midwest and East regions can be found here. My largely intact Final Four picks can be found by clicking this wonderful link. For more Gonzaga, click here.

NCAA Tournament and March Madness Coverage and Predictions from Know Hitter

West and South Region predictions.

Midwest and East Region predictions.

Why You Should Trust Gonzaga in Your Bracket.

More March Madness goodness in general.

My Final Four and National Champion picks.

NBA Talent Pool: Why The League Can Sustain Expansion

One of the big downsides to NBA expansion, according to some pundits and fan, is the lack of talent. The feeling is that the NBA can’t support another team(s) because of a lack of talent available. The “tanking” theory has only supported this theory.

However, it is possible for the NBA to support another team or teams to field a competitive roster. Recent signings around the league have only supported the theory that the NBA can field new teams from a talent level standpoint. These signings have quickly turned into major contributors, or have experience. There are also a number of quality free agents on the open market as well as a number of examples of players who went from sitting on the end of the bench to contributing in the NBA.

Here’s a look at some of those players:

Recent Signings From Out of Nowhere (Relatively Speaking)

Langston Galloway

  • The Saint Joseph’s product has been a positive for the Knicks with 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and one steal per game.

Hassan Whiteside

  • He’s been a little out of control with his cheap shot on Kelly Olynyk and his take down of Alex Len, but foolish decisions aside, Whiteside is a talented player who has shown he can be productive in the league. Averages 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest.

Tyler Johnson

  • Whiteside’s teammate in Miami, the guard averages 8 points a contest, he dropped 26 in a win over Phoenix.

Recent Signings with Experience

Nate Robinson

  • The 5’9” Robinson brings instant offense as at the point guard spot, averages 11.1 points per game in NBA career.

Michael Beasley

  • The former number two overall-pick may be more of a role player at this point in time, but he’s a pretty productive part-time player. Miami has gotten good value out of Beasley on a pair of ten-day contracts. The Kansas State standout has scored a respectable 11 points a game in 24.9 minutes per contest.

Bernard James

  • James has only ever played for the Mavericks in his NBA career. In Dallas he’s proved himself to be a quality back-up center.

Free Agents/ Available Players

Ray Allen

  • One of the best pure shooters of all time. Considered signing with a contender this season before choosing to sit the year out.

Back End of the Bench to Quality Contributor

Tony Wroten

  • The Seattle product went from averaging 2.6 points per game in Memphis a couple seasons ago to scoring 16.9 points a game this year with Philadelphia. Is Wroten going to score 17 points a night on every NBA team? Probably not, but his statistical output on a better team is likely to fall closer to his numbers in Philly than his showing in Memphis.

Miles Plumlee

  • Went from averaging less than a point per game with Indiana (0.9) to scoring 8.1 points and grabbing 7.8 rebounds a game in Phoenix his second year. Now with Milwaukee, he’s proven that at the very least, he’s a serviceable rotation big.

Robert Covington

  • Similar to Wroten and Plumlee, Covington was receiving little playing time with his first club (Houston). The wing player moved to Philadelphia where he has flourished, averaging 13 points a contest to go along with 4.7 rebounds a game and a 37.7 shooting percentage from three.

All of these players are either available or were available at a certain point in time.

An expansion team would also have the benefit of having two draft to supplement their roster. One of those picks would likely be in the high lottery. The other pick would likely be near the onset of the second round, providing additional value.

If the success stories of Galloway and Whiteside have taught us anything it’s that there is talent for the NBA to make use of when expansion comes. This isn’t even considering the concept of an expansion draft where the new team would get to pluck unprotected players from other teams’ rosters.

The expansion team would likely find themselves with a young building block to construct a team around al a Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andre Drummond or DeMarcus Cousins.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

5 Stats from Gonzaga’s WCC Title Game Win Over BYU

  1. 15—15, the number of consecutive West Coast Conference title game appearances by Gonzaga.
  2. 45—45, the number of points scored by Gonzaga’s front line. The three-headed monster of Przemek Karnowski, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis also pulled in 20 rebounds while registering three assists and a block. BYU’s front line combined for a mere 11 points.
  3. 14—14, the number shots it took BYU scoring machine Tyler Haws to reach 15 points. Gary Bell played lockdown defense on the Cougars’ guard while he was in the game and had a massive effect. While scoring at will against just about everyone else, Haws struggled against Gonzaga this season, partly due to Bell. He was 6 of 14 on Tuesday and also posted 10 points (his second lowest total of the season) in the two teams’ last meeting. Haws also went 4 for 12 in an earlier loss to GU earlier in the year.
  4. 18—18, the number of minutes played by freshman phenom Domantas Sabonis. The forward poured in 15 points, grabbed six rebounds and had a single assist and a block. He was also an ultra-efficient 7 of 8 at the free throw line.
  5. 28—points by BYU standout Kyle Collinsworth. The triple-double threat single-handedly kept his team close, but took a whopping 22 shots to get to 28 points.

Seahawks Acquire Jimmy Graham

The latest per Jay Glazer of Fox Sports-

The Seahawks haven’t announced anything yet, but knowing how good Glazer is, you can probably expect something official soon.

I guess they didn’t want to waste time in finding Zach Miller’s replacement.

Graham lead the NFL in touchdown catches in 2013 with 16 and had 10 last season. Since 2011, he has 46 touchdown receptions and 4396 yards. His presence, along with Marshawn Lynch, will give the Seahawks two of the best red zone players in the league. Not to mention Russell Wilson, who isn’t too shabby of a player either.

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.