Wizards

No. 21 Zags expected to win WCC again

No. 21 Zags expected to win WCC again

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Gonzaga forward Elias Harris knows there are big expectations for a team that returns four starters and is ranked No. 21 in the preseason Top 25.

``A lot of people are projecting huge things, talking about the Final Four and being one of the best teams Gonzaga has ever had,'' Harris said. ``Our starting five and second five, it doesn't really drop.''

The four returning starters are Harris (13 points and 8.5 rebounds per game), plus guards Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Jr. and Mike Hart.

Coach Mark Few is used to high expectations for his squad, and doesn't think they are misplaced this season.

``We have a lot of guys returning, we have some nice experience and we have some tremendous depth,'' Few said. ``And we're very skilled.''

But Few also noted the Zags did not win the West Coast Conference regular-season or tournament titles last year - Saint Mary's did - a rare occurrence since Gonzaga rose to national prominence.

Last season's Gonzaga team finished 26-7 and went to a 14th straight NCAA tournament, losing to Ohio State in the second round.

The biggest departure is center Robert Sacre, who averaged 11.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. The Zags also lost a handful of role players.

Gonzaga this season seems particularly deep in the front line, where Harris, 6-foot-9 Sam Dower and 7-foot Kelly Olynyk are joined by newcomer Przemek Karnowski, a 7-foot-1 freshman.

``Big guys are always so hard to find, so anytime you get quality big guys it's very important to building your program,'' Few said of Karnowski.

The back court is also solid. Pangos and Bell became starters as freshmen last year. Also back are guards Guy Landry Edi and David Stockton and redshirt freshman Kyle Dranginis.

``We've had a great run of guards at Gonzaga,'' Few said. ``I love the ones I have in Gary and Kevin.''

Newcomers include Drew Barham, a transfer from the University of Memphis who has two years left and is immediately eligible because he has already graduated.

``We have a lot bounce, a lot of guys that can score a bunch of different ways,'' Few said. ``I don't know if we have a guy that can go out every night and get you 20. There are a lot of guys capable of upper double-figures scoring.''

Gonzaga has a typically loaded non-conference schedule, with West Virginia, Illinois and No. 19 Baylor coming to Spokane. They play Kansas State in Seattle, and have road games against Clemson, Butler, Washington State and Oklahoma State.

With the WCC improving, Few wonders if it is time to dial down the non-conference schedule.

``We are at the point where we have got to back off a little here,'' Few said. ``We can't do Murderer's Row throughout the entire preseason.''

Gonzaga was chosen by WCC coaches to win the regular season title, and four players - Pangos, Bell, Dower and Harris - were preseason all-conference selections.

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Wizards take out Sixers to tie season series behind Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter's hot shooting

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards take out Sixers to tie season series behind Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter's hot shooting

The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-94 on Sunday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Playoff implications: Later in the season the stakes are raised and the Wizards' win over the Sixers on Sunday night could loom large in just a few weeks.

By beating the Sixers, who had won seven straight entering the matchup, the Wizards tied up the season series with their second win. A loss would have handed Philly the tiebreaker in playoff seeding if the two teams finish with the same record at season's end.

Now that their season series is over and locked even, it will come down to their record against other Eastern Conference teams if they tie. At 22-15 vs. the East, the Wizards currently have the edge on the Sixers, who are 18-14 in that category.

The Wizards dominated the Sixers for much of the night and they did so by once again moving the ball with generosity and precision. They had 35 assists on 43 field goals. The Wizards have had 30 or more assists in five games this season and four have come within the last month.

Those four games have been part of a 9-3 surge for the Wizards since John Wall got injured. With their win against Philly, the Wizards moved to 35-25 on the season and a half-game out of third in the East. The Sixers are among several teams nipping at their heels in an increasingly crowded conference.

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Oubre put on a show: The Wizards led 67-48 at halftime and that was in large part due to Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s impact on both ends of the floor. He had eight points in each of the first two quarters, including four threes, and made several key plays on defense.

Oubre had three blocks to set a career-high by halftime, including one on Robert Covington that bounced off Covington's leg and gave the Wizards possession. He also took a charge on Ben Simmons and flashed a smile for the cameras as he sprinted back down the floor.

Oubre ended the game with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting. It wasn't long ago that Oubre was in a significant shooting slump.

In his last 11 games before the All-Star break, Oubre was averaging just 9.4 points on 31.2 percent shooting. In three games since the break, Oubre has scored 47 points (15.7/g) while shooting 51.5 percent. It's safe to say he's put those shooting struggles behind him.

Oubre had been making his mark defensively as the Wizards closed the first half on a tear, but Sunday showed how much of a boost he can provide when he's in a rhythm offensively. He completely changed the game and helped the Wizards knock off a team that came to Washington super hot.

Porter wasn't fazed: Otto Porter did something on Sunday that likely has never been accomplished before. He hit not one, not two, not three but four buzzer-beaters all in the first half. Three of them were to beat the shot clock. Then, he hit another one to end the first half:

That shot capped an 8-1 run to end the second quarter for the Wizards and it brought a burst of energy out of the crowd. Porter had 14 points in the second quarter and shot 6-for-6 in the frame. The Wizards outscored the Sixers 37-20 in the second and Porter led the charge.

Porter finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Much like Bradley Beal, who had 24 points in this game, Porter has thrived in this second extended absence for Wall. Both Beal and Porter battle inconsistency as they adapted to being the primary focus of opposing teams back in November when Wall first went down. But this time around, they have answers to everything teams are throwing at them.

Porter's patience at the end of the shot clock on Sunday was an example of that. His confidence seems to be at an all-time high, knowing he has enough tricks to keep his opponents guessing. That was on display with under two minutes to go when he drained a three in Covington's face, turned around to stare at him afterwards and then shook his head as he trotted down the court, as if he were saying that no one can stop him. 

Up next: The Wizards are off Monday before playing back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Bucks and Warriors. Tuesday is an 8 p.m. tipoff on TNT. We will have pre- and postgame coverage of Wizards-Bucks on NBC Sports Washington Plus beginning at 7 p.m.

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Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

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Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Caravan

Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

NBA agent Dan Fegan, who had previously represented many high-profile NBA clients including John Wall, died in a car crash Sunday morning, according to The Aspen Times. 

According to the report, Fegan's SUV was struck by a bus while trying to merge onto Highway 82 in Colorado a little after 9 am this morning. 

The two passengers in the car - an unidentified woman and Fegan's 5-year old daughter - were airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. 

Fegan was 56.