Just arriving from the East Coast last night, after being up for 20 hours, I decided to get some sleep, and to forego the anxiety of not knowing who won until I watched this morning. So, I checked. Zags by 13. Slept like a baby. Turns out, I only spoiled the first five minutes of the game as any anxiety as to the eventual victor, at 17-4 Zags, was well over by that point.
It was much like the cat playing with the proverbial mouse. And while St. Mary’s – at one point – climbed to within 9, the Zags effectively took them out of the game in the first five minutes, eventually building a 17-point lead (22-5). They schooled the upstart Gaels, who’d won a nail biter in Spokane just a few short weeks ago. The most telling moment was about eight minutes in, with the Zags up by 17. The Gaels stole the ball and hit a three, closing it to 14. One began to see – and hear – signs of life from the crowd… And then Mark Few called a time-out. The dispirit on the faces of the Gaels palpable. Most notably on the face of the quite competent coach, Randy Bennett, who looked like he was earning a degree at the foot of the master. Nor could the much heralded, prospective John Wooden awardee (currently on the top 20 watch list), Aussie center Jock Landale, contribute, finishing with four points and ten rebounds. Double teamed virtually every time he touched the ball, he didn’t simply lose the battle of the paint; he lost one to two steps every time he tried to penetrate.
A rout in every sense of the word and a sign of why I like the Zags to go further than their current tournament projection [a 5 seed]. While it is true there may be no first-round draft picks on this team, there is a balance, and a fearlessness, that will carry them further than most pundits (who continue to discount the Zags despite their advance to the Final in ’17) predict. Six – count ‘em – players average in double figures and, as with Zach Collins last year, the one sure pro pick comes off the bench. Rui Hachimuri, whose mother hails from Japan and whose father is Benini [seriously, I tried to find out what tribe Rui’s dad is from in Benin and the Internet will not answer that question. He’s either Yoruba, Fula, the Dendi, the Bariba, the Somba or the Fon. I’m going to write the Zags to find out. Stayed tuned] is athletic as anyone who’s played for the Zags. He torched the Gaels for 23 last time out and added another 21 last night. And if Jonathan Williams doesn’t get selected, well then that’s just piss poor scouting on the part of the pros: Williams has NBA utility man written all over his game.