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One of the nation's best frontcourts last season is coming back next season. First, Domantas Sabonis informed the coaching staff he was coming back for his sophomore season instead of entering the NBA Draft. Next, Przemek Karnowski announced he's returning for his senior season.
And Monday, Kyle Wiltjer told GU coaches and teammates he'll be back for his senior season.
More on Wiltjer's return and Angel Nunez committing to South Florida here.
One big man coming back, one big man still undecided.
Przemek Karnowski announced Friday he is returning to Gonzaga for his senior season. The 7-foot-1 center from Torun, Poland, weighed his options before deciding to finish out his collegiate eligibility. Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis give Gonzaga two-thirds of the frontcourt that helped the Zags piled up 35 wins last season.
Karnowski has an intriguing future. His development has been impressive and there's still plenty of room for growth. The offense often ran through him last season and his low-post presence led to baskets, foul pressure and open looks for teammates. He's an accomplished passer and defender.
Karnowski probably could have played professionally overseas this fall and made a healthy paycheck. My guess is he would have gone undrafted but now he has another year to improve his draft stock. Keep in mind: a number of Karnowski's better performances have been against the better and bigger centers Gonzaga has faced — Arizona's Kaleb Tarczewski, Duke's Jahlil Okafor (despite first-half foul trouble), UCLA's Kevon Looney (more of a '4') and Saint Mary's Brad Waldow.
Funny how these mock drafts work sometimes. I can remember Karnowski on draft boards in his freshman year and now he's nowhere to be found, despite the fact that he's a way better all-around player.
The last remaining question is forward Kyle Wiltjer, who hasn't announced whether he'll play his senior season or declare for the draft.
You never know. Just like the games themselves, the sporting world rarely follows a script. I didn't plan on sending out texts, making phone calls and scouring NBA mock drafts on Monday but that's what happened when it became known that Kyle Wiltjer is considering skipping his senior season at Gonzaga.
A month ago, if you'd have asked me the odds on a Zag leaving/staying, I probably would have said Domantas Sabonis 50-50, Kyle Wiltjer (20-80), Przmek Karnowski (15-85). And today? Sabonis has told coaches he's coming back. Wiltjer is seriously considering leaving GU. Karnowski is gathering information and hasn't made a final decision.
You never know.
Gonzaga's season ended a week ago and there's already been some promising developments for 2016, the biggest of which is Domantas Sabonis planning to return for his sophomore season.
Sabonis was projected as a late first-round pick so there had to be some temptation to leave early. His father, Arvydas, the legendary center, apparently used his NBA contacts to get a feel for Domas' draft position. Sabonis has all the tools to become an excellent pro, including a mid-range jumper that he didn't display much this season.
Here's my early look at the 2016 Zags that ran in today's S-R.
If you quickly scanned the stats — Gonzaga shooting a higher percentage, winning the glass, 13-0 edge in bench points, 15-9 edge in second-chance points and capably defending Duke's offense and star center Jahlil Okafor — it would seemingly add up to a Zags' victory.
But GU's normally productive offense had two lengthy dry spells in the second half, one after taking a 38-34 lead and another rough patch in the final 5-plus minutes. Duke took full advantage.
One last time this season, here's our game coverage: My game story, John Blanchette's column, Colin Mulvany's photos, Jacob Thorpe's Duke sidebar and a Meehan/Thorpe notebook. Here's a link to find Duke coverage in the Charlotte paper.
For the second time in school history, Gonzaga will play for a spot in the Final Four when it takes on No. 1 seeded Duke today. If it's not the biggest game day in program history, it at least shares top billing with the 1999 squad's Elite Eight showdown with Connecticut.
Here's our coverage: My game advance and notebook, John Blanchette column on Matt Santangelo, and Jacob Thorpe's notebook and feature on Duke's Justise Winslow. Here's a link to Duke coverage in the Charlotte Observer.
I caught Mark Few returning from post-game media session in a nearly empty hallway after Gonzaga's 74-62 win over UCLA and asked him a couple of questions before a few more reporters arrived. Few explained what he imparted during a timeout when the Bruins had cut GU's lead to one early in the second half.
Few told the Zags to tighten up their ball-screen coverage, it had slipped during the Bruins' rally. And he told the Zags to feed it inside to Przemek Karnowski.
"We liked that (Karnowski) matchup so I was trying to call that number," Few said. "And Domas (Sabonis) had a nice stretch there."
Gonzaga is trying to go where only the 1999 Zags have gone before: The Elite Eight. UCLA is standing in their way.
Here's our coverage in today's paper: My game preview, John Blanchette's column on Steve Alford and his Spokane connection, Colin Mulvany's photo gallery, Jacob Thorpe's sidebar on UCLA's late-season success and a Meehan/Thorpe notebook.
You can find L.A. Times coverage at this link.
A little of everything today as Gonzaga moves closer to its Sweet 16 matchup with UCLA on Friday.
Here's what we had in the S-R: John Blanchette caught up with Eric McClellan and his mom as the junior guard continues to rebuild his career after being dismissed from Vanderbilt last season; Jacob Thorpe explored UCLA's improvement, with one notable exception, since the Zags won 87-74 at Pauley Pavilion in December; and I wrote a notebook, led by the Zags remembering to celebrate each victory in a season with 34 wins so far.
Pressers coming up later today, updates on twitter @SRjimm.
Gonzaga and UCLA have some NCAA tournament history. The teams collide again Friday in another Sweet 16 matchup, and that prompts some unpleasant memories in Zagville of a 2006 game that will no bearing on this week's showdown in Houston.
GU handled the Bruins for roughly 36 minutes but stumbled before the finish line. UCLA took advantage and pulled off a stunning comeback victory. I visited with a few of the men involved in that memorable contest, including ex-Zag Adam Morrison, who was gracious with his time and seems to have a better perspective than some folks out there.
Here's my article on that memorable '06 contest.
You know the drill. Here's the S-R coverage of Gonzaga's rout of Iowa last night — my game story, John Blanchette column, Jacob Thorpe sidebar, Meehan/Thorpe notebook (with Blanchette assist) and Colin Mulvany photo gallery.
Numerous articles/videos from Des Moines Register here.
Maybe this wasn't such a down year for the Pac-12, after all.
The conference sent four teams to the NCAA tournament and all four won their opening games. Three of them will head to the Sweet 16 and the only team to lose, Oregon, gave No. 1 Wisconsin all it could handle yesterday.
Arizona has been as impressive as any team so far and coach Sean Miller is having success against a gauntlet of familiar foes. The Utes are playing well heading into a matchup of coach Ks. Many didn't think UCLA would make the tournament field but some bigtime post play has the Bruins back in the Sweet 16 for a tournament rematch against Gonzaga.
John Blanchette and I have been in Seattle, helping Jim Meehan cover the Zags, who are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009. The Bulldogs looked pretty formidable on Sunday, dominating Iowa from start to finish. Here's Jim's game story, John's column and my sidebar. Jim and I also have some notes from the game.
It was a rough weekend for the WSU baseball team, which was swept by Oregon State. The Cougars were on the wrong end of a perfect game on Saturday.
— Obviously, Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle made the right call by rooting for his daughter over his employer.
— Ken Goe examines what's next for Oregon basketball.
— Stanford beat Rhode Island in the second round of the NIT.
Gonzaga and Iowa meet later today at KeyArena with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line. It's an intriguing matchup with both teams boasting size, experience and underappreciated defenses.
The battle of the bigs will be a fun one to watch. One factor barely discussed in the numerous articles I read this morning, and one that always plays a huge role in NCAA tournament games: the guards. When Mark Few talks about how much the program will miss Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos after they graduate, this is what he's talking about — the two seniors combined for 31 points, seven assists, three rebounds, two steals, one block, zero turnover in 77 minutes against North Dakota State. And Bell turned in another solid defensive effort on NDSU's Lawrence Alexander.
Iowa's starting guards, Mike Gesell and Peter Jok, were impressive in a victory over Davidson, combining for 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists and zero turnovers in 57 minutes.
Media day approaching this afternoon so we'll get caught up with last night's S-R content from the Zags' 86-76 win over North Dakota State.
My game story, John Blanchette's column (complete with dump truck and Nuke LaLoosh references), Jacob Thorpe's article on NDSU and Dexter Werner, the Walter brothers' one-and-done road trip, and Colin Mulvany's photos. Bison coverage here.
Second-seeded Gonzaga and No. 15 North Dakota State tangle tonight at KeyArena, the nightcap of four games here.
Checked in with Ray Giacoletti, who has first-hand knowledge of Gonzaga's and North Dakota State's programs.
Giacoletti, now at Drake, talks about both teams here.
Gonzaga is back in the NCAA tournament as a high seed, just not quite as high as two years ago when the Zags carried a No. 1 ranking and No. 1 seed into March Madness.
The Zags are seeded second and seventh overall, a subtle difference from 2013 but one that seemingly adds to their comfort level. There's still no escaping the high expectations but several of the Zags should be better equipped to deal with the hoopla after their experiences in 2013. That's the topic for my article in today's S-R.
President Obama's bracket picks are out and he has the Zags out early, falling to Davidson in the round of 32.
North Dakota State is one of the better stories in college basketball, on and off the court.
On the court, the Bison, under the guidance of first-year coach Dave Richman, are back in the NCAA tournament despite losing six seniors from last year's NCAA squad. Off the court, well, not totally off the court, NDSU has been displaced by renovations to the Bison Sports Arena, prompting them to use alternative facilities, including a vacant grocery store, to conduct their day-to-day business.
More on how NDSU has made the best of the situation here.
Zach Collins is the first member of Gonzaga's 2016 recruiting class. The 6-11 1/2, 230-pound Collins, who just completed his junior season at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, on Monday orally committed to Gonzaga.
Kyle Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski are juniors and freshman Domantas Sabonis has been listed on some NBA mock drafts as a late first-rounder so Gonzaga needed to reinforce its frontcourt.
I spoke with Collins and his father, Mike, an assistant coach with Bishop Gorman, earlier tonight. My unedited article is below.
As Selection Sundays go, this one went just about as expected. And that's probably a good thing for Gonzaga, which earned the expected seed (2) and site (Seattle). The Zags are in the South Region, which features No. 1 Duke and No. 3 Iowa State, but those are down-the-road possibilities.
GU's immediate assignment is No. 15 North Dakota State in Seattle on Friday.
I'm visiting with NDSU coach Dave Richman tomorrow so I'll have a look at the Bison, probably for Tuesday's paper.
Today's the day Gonzaga learns its NCAA seeding, its first-round opponent, its bracket and its location. And yes, it's still mind-boggling the Zags have done this on 17 straight Selection Sundays.
So who do you have — GU-EWU, in Seattle? There are no guidelines against it. In fact, Joe Lunardi has a Zags-Eags pairing, but my guess is EWU will be higher than a 15 seed. So how far do you have GU going?
We took a look at Selection Sunday speculation here.
Lastly, The Spokesman-Review's Few's Sweet 16 project — kudos to Ralph Walter's graphics — reached an end in today's paper with John Blanchette's column. If you've missed any of it, the bracket, the picks, the videos, the game write-ups, the all-Zag teams (nicknames, hair, best tourney games, etc.), you can find it here.
Time to sign off for a while. Another commentator just called Gonzaga "Gone-zawga."
Gonzaga accomplished several things in Las Vegas. Another WCC title, revenge for losing to BYU in the regular-season finale and perhaps most importantly, the Zags seemed to find their November-January stride.
"We got back to playing the way we’ve played the majority of the season,” coach Mark Few said after his team dispatched BYU 91-75 in the title game. “Attacking on offense and being tough as nails on defense, directing shots and getting after it on the glass."
The Zags enter the NCAAs with momentum, a likely two seed and probably a short flight to Seattle or Portland.
Gonzaga seemed to improve with each WCC tournament game, starting with a quarterfinal victory over San Francisco, the strong second half against Pepperdine and a 40-minute effort against a tough BYU squad in Tuesday's title game.
My unedited game story is below. Colin Mulvany's photos can be found here.
Should be a fun one tonight at the Orleans Arena when Gonzaga and BYU square off for the WCC tournament championship. They split during the regular season and both teams put on a show in Monday's semifinals.
Here's the S-R coverage of GU's 79-61 romp over Pepperdine: My game story, John Blanchette's column and Colin Mulvany's photos. You can find several articles on the BYU men's and women's semifinal victories here. BYU's at-large credentials are examined here, here and in a Joe Lunardi video prior to BYU-Portland here. A video recap of the WCC semis here.
It's getting closer to the national awards season and Gonzaga is well represented.
Senior Kevin Pangos is one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, presented to the nation's top point guard. The others: Duke's Tyus Jones, Utah's Delon Wright, Arizona's T.J. McConnell and Wichita State's Fred Van Vleet.
Junior Kyle Wiltjer made the final five for the Karl Malone Award, given to the top power forward. The others: Kansas' Perry Ellis, Louisville's Montrezl Harrell, Iona's David Laury and Iowa State's Georges Niang.
Awards finalists listed here.
The Gonzaga men face Pepperdine at 6 p.m. Monday, and sometime in the hours leading up to the WCC tournament semifinal the Zags will determine Kyle Wiltjer's status. The junior forward is dealing with a left hip injury and will be a game-time decision.
GU's women, who face BYU in the semifinals at noon Monday, are listing Lindsay Sherbert (knee) as a game-time decision. Emma Wolfram has returned after a bout with food poisoning kept her out of Friday's win over LMU.
Here's a look at Monday's games for the Zag men and women.
And here's a gamer from the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Zags welcomed back an old friend Saturday: Energy, fire and an edge.
Gonzaga overcome some execution issues with a 19-1 spurt in the second half to navigate past San Francisco 81-72 in the WCC tournament quarterfinals.
My unedited game story below.
Good morning from Las Vegas. Third day here, still haven't seen a cloud.
Pulling double duty as always at the WCC tournaments. Gonzaga's women put together a big second half, thanks to a nice lift from its bench, to eliminate No. 8 LMU 70-50. Game story here, Colin Mulvany photos here and here. The Zags face No. 5 BYU in Monday's semifinals.
Gonzaga's men practiced in Spokane and arrived here last night. The Zags will face No. 8 San Francisco, which edged Pacific 62-58. The Dons played man defense most of the way, a departure from the zone traps they usually throw at Gonzaga. Guessing we'll see more of the latter tonight in the quarterfinals.
Here's my men's tourney preview.
One, it's way too early in the morning.
Two, I filed my weekly Gonzaga notebook for today's S-R, focusing on a fewe areas where the Zags' game has slipped in recent weeks. Now, it's grading on a curve as the Zags are 29-2 and ranked seventh, but GU is hoping to regain its edge later this week in Las Vegas. Here's the notebook.
Three, have a great day.