Five global standouts lead top US college team
Five players from outside the United States have helped spark tiny Gonzaga University to the top of the US college basketball multi-million-dollar universe after a stunning 29-2 regular season.
Gonzaga moved up to the No. 1 spot on Monday in the USA Today Sports coaches poll, the first time in school history the team had reached the pinnacle in the college system that serves as a top talent developer for the NBA.
The Bulldogs have won 12 games in a row and if they run unbeaten through the West Coast Conference tournament as they did in the regular season, they will be a top seed in the US national tournament that opens later this month.
"March Madness" attracts huge television audiences and brings rights fees riches to US schools and nothing excites viwership like a fairy-tale run such as the one by this catholic liberal arts school in Spokane, Washington, with only 4,906 undergraduates.
Kelly Olynyk, a 7-foot (2.13m) junior center from Canada, leads the "Zags" with 17.7 points and has grabbed 7.0 rebounds a game while Canadian sophomore guard Kevin Pangos adds 11.7 points and a team-high 3.29 assists a game.
German senior forward Elias Harris averages 14.6 points and grabs a team-best 7.5 rebounds a game.
Coming off the bench for the Bulldogs are Polish 7-foot freshman center Przemek Karnowski, who averages 5.7 points and 2.5 rebounds, and Ivory Coast senior swingman Guy Landry Edi, who averages 3.2 points and 2.3 rebounds.
The Bulldogs took over after losses this past week from prior No. 1 Indiana and fellow traditional collegiate hoops powerhouses Duke and Michigan.
While the larger schools play a tougher schedule, Gonzaga's schedule is ranked among the least difficult schedules for any team to ever reach the top spot. But the Bulldogs have not stumbled in dominating their rivals.
"It's out of our control," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "All we can do is do what we do. We're not going to take it lightly because it has never happened here. This group handles it really well. They don't get too caught up in it."