Kelly Olynyk: Gonzaga Big Man Set for Huge Performance Against Wichita State

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 21:  Kelly Olynyk #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs reacts in the first half while taking on the Southern University Jaguars during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at EnergySolutions Arena on March 21, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Kelly Olynyk, the floor is yours.

Much was made of Gonzaga's first game against the Southern Jaguars. While the Bulldogs looked a bit sluggish, they still managed to win, 64-58. Despite how tough of a game it was, it's not as if Gonzaga played all that poorly. The Zags out-rebounded Southern by 16, only turned the ball over 10 times and didn't shoot particularly poorly.

The Bulldogs simply weren't their best, while the Jaguars came ready to shock the world. How many times will a team knock down 10 three-pointers?

Gonzaga's best player on Thursday by far was Olynyk. He really stepped up when Mark Few needed him the most. Olynyk recorded a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. The big man clearly presented a mismatch to Southern, and the Zags exploited that.

The college basketball landscape is pretty much bereft of skilled big men. Most have built their reputations as grinders who play very good defense and rebound the ball well.

In terms of the total package, you've got Olynyk and Cody Zeller at the top, and then the rest. Gonzaga having such a talented seven-footer is a huge advantage in the tournament. Opposing players can't get taller in an effort to try and stop Olynyk. When he's on and receiving plenty of service, there's no answer for him.

Looking at the Bulldogs' next opponent, the Wichita State Shockers, it's hard to see where Olynyk will have much competition size-wise.

The Shockers are a very good rebounding team, though. They're bringing down an average of 38.4 boards a game. The Zags are right behind at 37.4; however, it's hard to get chances for rebounds when you shoot 50.1 percent from the field as a team.

All the Gonzaga players have been hearing about lately is how questionable their schedule was and that they're the weakest No. 1 seed in the tournament. The problem is, the Zags didn't do anything against Southern to dispel that criticism. The Bulldogs looked good but not great against the Jaguars.

There's no doubt Few has been drilling into his players exactly how many doubters they have at this stage. That added motivation will help to spur Olynyk on the rest of the way.

Gonzaga is clearly a talented team, calling on Elias Harris, Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell. It's Olynyk, though, who makes the Zags go.

There have been quite a few talented players to come through the Gonzaga program. While Olynyk may not be the most talented, he's got the chance to enter the kind of rarefied air that John Stockton, Dan Dickau, Adam Morrison, Ronny Turiaf, etc. never reached as a player.

Wichita State won't be able to shock anybody Saturday night. Instead, Olynyk will continue to assert himself as one of the best players in the country.


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