“Who to Watch in March” profiles the players who will make the biggest impact for their teams as they head into the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga University F/C: #13 Kelly Olynyk
Class: Junior (Red Shirt)
Weight: 238 lbs
Hometown: Kamloops, British Columbia, South Kamloops Secondary School
Accolades: Canadian National Team, 2012-13 Academic All-American, 2012-13 WCC Player of the Year, First Team All-WCC
After Kelly Olynyk was benched the first three games of the 2012-13 season for violating school conduct he became, and remains, the offensive anchor for the number one ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The Canadian leads Gonzaga in points per game with 17.7, and field goal percentage at 67% (3rd in the nation overall). His high FG% also anchors Gonzaga’s team percentage, 50.5%, which is 3rd best in Division I. Olynyk’s 7.0 rebounds per game is good enough for second on the team.
Don’t bother trying to foul the seven-footer either, he is 78% from the FT line. That figure leads all forwards in the West Coast Conference.
The highlight of his offensive efficiency came against BYU on Jan. 25. In that game he went 9-9 from the field, and 8-8 from the free throw line, Kelly finished the game with 26 points and 9 rebounds.
With a graceful and athletic approach to interior scoring, Olynyk will be a nightmare for opposing coaches to plan against. Not only does he have the size, but also experience in tournament basketball. Olynyk played on Gonzaga’s tournament teams in 2009-10 and 2010-11 (Sat out 2011-12 season). He also was a member of Canada’s 2010 FIBA World Championship team, although they lost every game they competed in.
According to DraftExpress.com Olynyk is expected to go mid-first round in the NBA Draft. They also note the biggest flaw in his seemingly perfect game, turnovers.
A versatile offensive talent, Olynyk is not without his faults. He ranks in the top 10 in turnovers amongst prospects in our top-100 per-40 minutes pace adjusted, being a bit too aggressive putting the ball on the floor when operating in the post.
Gonzaga has only two losses this season, one of which against Illinois (the other Butler). In that game Olynyk had six turnovers. To this point he is averaging 2.4 TO’s a game.
However as the records show his scoring qualities have far surpassed the turnover issues, leading Gonzaga to an undefeated record in WCC play.
All things considered, Gonzaga should roll through the West Coast Conference tournament. If everything else goes according to plan for the Zags, they will be the overall number one seed heading into the NCAA Tournament.
From there it will fall on Kelly Olynyk to erase Gonzaga’s tournament woes. This season will mark the Zags 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, but they not advanced past the sweet sixteen since 1999. In that span they entered the tournament as high as the 2nd seed, and as low as the 12th.
A cause for concern will be in the third (formerly second) round, where they will likely face an athletic 8th or 9th seed in Cal or NC State. Olynyk has faced athletic competition outside of the weak WCC and thrived however. The key to his, and in turn Gonzaga’s, tournament success will be when the ball is in Olynyk’s hands to make sure he puts it in the net and not on the floor.
If Kelly Olynyk can translate his regular season success into the post-season expect for the Zags to go far and prove the doubters wrong in their negative assumptions of the Zags.