Can Harris, Gonzaga continue to ride the wave?

Can one website support three teams in a single competition? Hey, it’s March Madness, so why not? Earlier, BallinEurope took a brief look at half the European players set to compete (or not) in the 2013 NCAA Tournament; today, nine more – and a bit of a conundrum Though some 18 names on Big Dance rosters represent the Continent in this year’s tourney, three teams have each amassed a European triad – not to mention a few certain NBA draft picks and difference-makers in the tournament.

The easy choice for the European basketball fan would of course be Gonzaga. With a realistic shot at winning the whole enchilada and having perfected that up-tempo style for which this basketball program has become known, why not get on the bandwagon? After a topsy-turvy season during which it felt like a new no. 1 topped polls weekly, the Bulldogs finally emerged atop the ratings, only to see that ranking immediately erased thanks to bracket-building.

Of course, one could eliminate the Zags from contention for your Tournament-time devotion on a technicality. Guy Landry Edi’s hometown according to the NCAA and media sources is Paris, France. However, serious followers of FIBA ball will recall that, after playing with Team France in the U16s, he then suited up – thus changed his eligible nationality in FIBA terms – for Côte d’Ivoire in the 2010 FIBA World Championship (and subsequently the 2011 FIBA Africa Championship).

So could it be that Edi is finally worn down? Or, put another way, what happened to this guy in 2013? Since the New Year’s Eve game at Oklahoma State, Edi has totaled nearly as many personal fouls (11) as points (16, including seven in the Seniors Day Game blowout against Portland). Heck, he hasn’t scored a point since January 24, since going 0-for-13.

BiE wonders if we’ll ever see this player again (and thinks, yeah, maybe in Pro A next season):

The play of Elias Harris (Germany) took the opposite trajectory in 2012-13. As longtime Associated Press basketball writer Jim O’Connell told BallinEurope going into the NCAA season, Harris is “A big-time player. There were games last year when he took over for them … he’s that kind of Gonzaga player [about whom] everyone says, ‘How’d we miss him?’” The Gonzaga program is really one of learning and Harris has done that. I’m looking for him to have a big year, maybe getting on to one of the three All-America teams.”

While Harris’ sloooooow start to his senior year eliminating him from any discussion of all-American bid early, he’s been mostly red-hot since January. After 16 games, Draft Express noted that “Harris has only made 7 of his 28 (25%) jumpers so far this year, taking a huge step back by connecting on just 16% of his three-point attempts (down from 41% last year on just 2 attempts per game), and still showing a lack of any sort of comfort in the midrange game.”

Since then, though, things have clicked for a Harris who apparently has discovered his mid-range game – though that three is still missing. After the January 6 print date of the Draft Express piece, Harris has shot at a mostly consistent 51.4% overall shooting rate (he was 91-of-177 in the span). If the German can stay in rhythm, BiE’s looking for him to be Gonzaga’s X-factor in later rounds – and waiting to see him play for the national team in Eurobasket 2013…

Then there’s the success story of Przemek Karnowski (Poland). Karnowski first came to international prominence in the 2010 FIBA U18 European Championship. After a couple of stints with Team Poland at the U16 level, scouts paid attention to how the massive guy (his vitals would be listed at 7’1”, 279 pounds/2.16m, 126.5kg for the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit) matched up with the likes of Jonas Valanciunas.

Karnowski performed solidly in that tournament with 9.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals+blocks per game; however, his near-DNP in the Nike Hoop Summit of ’11 had observers like believing that “His lack of foot speed and athleticism severely limit his NBA potential. He’s not a likely NBA draftee.”

The punchline: As of today, Draft Express has him at no. 21 in their 2014 mock NBA Draft – after playing just 11 minutes per game with the Bulldogs. Though his playing time has been curtailed a bit in the later parts of the season and thus probably won’t get many minutes in the Tournament, BiE’s definitely looking for this guy to make a 300-pound impact in 2013-14.

A second team BallinEurope’s looking at in this tourney is the dark-horse outfit of Florida Gulf Coast University. Unfortunately, two of the team’s Europeans haven’t been much of a positive factor for the Atlantic Sun Conference runners-up in 2012-13: Alexander Blessig (Germany) has been a bit player in his freshman season, while Christophe Varidel (Switzerland)’s junior year was another downturn in minutes played and most other statistical categories.

Filip Cvjeticanin (Croatia) also saw a serious setback after shooting 43% on threes in 2011-12; this season his mark plummeted to a sick 25.7% (28-of-109) from beyond the arc and 28.5% (41-of-144).

While some of Varidel and Cvjeticanin’s reduced playing time may be attributed to second-year coach Andy Enfield’s typical desire to develop his own recruits – sophs Bernard Thompson, Brett Comer and Eric McKnight were among FGCU’s top five in minutes played – both may need to search for answers in their own games. And work whatever magic spells they have before taking on no. 2 seed Georgetown.

As for that third team, well, as a University of New Mexico alum, this might be difficult to admit but, yes, BiE will be supporting New Mexico State in this Tournament. BiE’s hoping to at least catch a glimpse of freshman Matej Buovac (Croatia), though the forward has only averaged about 3½ minutes of playing time per game this season. With U16 and U18 experience with Team Croatia under his belt, however, is it too much to hope for a Eurobasket appearance soon?

Remi Barry of France saw a nice uptick in minutes in his sophomore year, and has to buoyed with his recent extended playing time. After seeing a college career-high 28 minutes at Texas Tech, Barry has been brought in earlier and given quality court time in 10 of the past 13 games – and his shooting percentage has increased from an anemic 20% to 42.9% for the season. Getting hot at the right time? BiE sure hopes so.

Finally, BiE could tell you that Bandja Sy capped his regular-season college career fittingly on Senior Night, nailing the game-winning three for the victory over UT Arlington. Or that he was first on NMSU in rebounds (7.3) and minutes played (35.4) plus second in points (11.7) per game. Or that in tandem with huge Canadian center Sim Bhullar allows Aggie shooters to spot up from virtually anywhere on the floor in the half-court.

Or BiE could just point out that he’s sometimes known as the “Dark Horse Dunker.” And show you the clip. And marvel at the fact that he’s “just” 6’8” (2.03m)…

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