3-point shot: Zags should be applauded

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
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1. Gonzaga will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, barring something odd occurring in the next week. That will be the highest the Zags have been seeded in the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga’s NCAA run since the 1999 Elite Eight should be applauded not scorned just because the Zags haven’t been able to get to the Final Four. Sure, there will be more pressure this season with the top seed, but five Sweet 16s since 1999 is nothing to dismiss. The Zags haven’t lost to a lesser team in the past four NCAAs, falling to Ohio State, Jimmer and BYU, Syracuse and North Carolina. The Zags also lost in two thrilling games -- a Sweet 16 loss to UCLA in 2006 and Arizona in double overtime in 2003. Gonzaga has had disappointing exits, losing to Wyoming in the first round in 2002 in Albuquerque and Nevada in round two in Seattle in 2004. “From our point of view, we have fared really, really well,’’ said Few. “I’ll give you [Dan] Dickau’s and [Blake] Stepp’s senior years (against Wyoming and Nevada, respectively).’’ The Zags have a Final Four caliber team. But this team and program has hardly been built on title or bust. They are consistently good every year and in the NCAA tournament with a legitimate chance to advance every season. That has plenty of merit. There is no pressure to do more in Spokane from the administration or the fan base, and ultimately, that’s how the program is judged.

2. Baylor fell to Texas Monday night. Barring a win over Kansas this weekend and a deep run to the Big 12 title game the Bears will miss the NCAA tournament after an Elite Eight run. Baylor coach Scott Drew has had an odd four-year run with two Elite Eights and possibly two missed NCAAs. This team had the backcourt with Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip, but the shooting was never the same as a year ago. The frontcourt was as long and as athletic as any in the country with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. But this team missed Perry Jones III and more than anyone else, the anchor and enforcer Quincy Acy in the post. Now the chore will be to see if Austin and Jefferson stay so there can be growth in the frontcourt from one year to the next the way there was from 2011 to 2012 with Jones III and Acy. There is no reason why Baylor can’t be back in the mix in the upper half of the Big 12 in 2014.

3. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber has quite the emotional year. Just think a year ago he was coaching Illinois toward the end of the season and knew that his job was likely over in Champaign. A year later, Kansas State is tied with Kansas in the loss column atop the Big 12 with a game against TCU at home Tuesday and at Oklahoma State Saturday. The Wildcats would lose a tiebreaker to Kansas if the two teams are tied at the end of the weekend since KU swept Kansas State. Still, regardless of what occurs in the seeding or race for first and second, it has been quite a turnaround for Weber. I can’t remember a coach who has gone from one extreme to another in just one season. Weber’s coaching was never in question. The Illini needed a new voice and he needed a fresh start. This couldn’t have worked out any better for him. He has only coached in small college towns so moving to Manhattan was no problem. Weber wouldn’t have done as well being idle for a year. He got an opportunity and made sure it was maximized.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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