by Mike Bookey
It is cold out here in Spokane. Yeah, we've seen some chilly temperatures in these parts, but the wind the last couple of days have probably been enough for Gonzaga fans to wish they were still back in Maui.
In the McCarthey Athletic Center, though, things should be nice and toasty as the now 19th ranked (or 15th if you go by the other poll) Bulldogs and their faithful student section get things rocking tonight against New Mexico State. You're thinking, oh New Mexico, they've been a powerhouse in the last five years. Stop right there. State. This is New Mexico State. The Aggies, they call them, and they are no slouches, either. They've made the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.
NMSU comes into the game with 7-3 record, all three of those losses being relatively close ones, the last of which was in the form of a 79-70 defeat to the aforementioned New Mexico. Keep an eye out for a potential Canadian-on-Canadian as NMSU's lead scorer Daniel Mullings might come up against his rival Ontarian (is that what you call someone from Ontario?) Kevin Pangos.
We're hoping the Kennel Club isn't camping out for this one. That would be brutal out there. You can watch on ESPNU at 8 pm in the warmth of your favorite bar or armchair.
The Zags don't get much of a break after NMSU, making their only East Coast trip of the regular season on Tuesday night to play West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 6-3 with quality losses against 10th ranked Wisconsin, Missouri and an early season close one to Virginia Tech. Expect the three-pointers to be flying in that one. Gonzaga and West Virginia are second and 10th, respectively, in three-point percentage. And in terms of pure volume, WVU has made a staggering 84 total threes in their first nine games. More on that...
Going into tonight's game, the Zags are shooting 48 percent from three-point range, the second-best average in the country. That is a better percentage than 60 other Division I teams are shooting period. What's even more remarkable is that they've shot like that with more than a few guys firing away. Bell, Pangos, Barham, Coleman and even Dower can all light it up from long distance.
BEST SHOOTING TEAM?
There's no question that Gonzaga has fielded stronger, faster, more athletic, more dunktastic, and as I've mentioned, better hairstyled in previous seasons, but the way this group of Zags can shoot the ball has been impressive. The team leads all of Division I in shooting percentage at a smoking hot 55.8 percent. Gonzaga finished third in the nation last season at just over 50 percent.
RUN IT UP
Keeping with the theme here, it's no surprise that the Zags are scoring the ball a hell of a lot this year. They are averaging 91.8 points per game in the early going, good for fourth in the nation. That fourth place total would be more than ten more than the leading team last year. You can blame some of that on this hot shooting, but scoring is up in college hoops across the board — mostly thanks to the new rules in the game making defensive fouls a hell of a lot easier to call.
Enough with the number nerdery — enjoy the game. And stay warm, fer God's sake.