A seven-foot-tall basketball player from Kamloops, B.C. is leading his U.S. school into March Madness, but observers wonder how long his team can keep up its success.
Kelly Olynyk has led the Gonzaga University Bulldogs to a No. 1 seed in the annual NCAA basketball tournament, but the team faces an uphill battle against the Pittsburgh Panthers, an elite team they face in the round of 32, Yahoo Sports reports.
Olynyk is a dominant presence on the court but Pittsburgh's seven-foot centre Steven Adams could prove to be a "physical match," wrote blogger Jeff Eisenberg.
Even if the Bulldogs go out against the Panthers, it will still cap off a successful season for Olynyk, who rebounded from a disappointing two seasons to be named the West Coast Conference player of the year, The Spokesman-Review reported.
None of that success has come easy. Olynyk grew seven inches between Grade 10 and 12, and he struggled with his new frame when he got to university, the Globe and Mail reported.
Olynyk played no games last season but spent mounds of time training off the court. He lifted weight to build strength, and his coach threw tennis balls at him to teach him quick moves, the newspaper reported.
The practice paid off. Olynyk has the best per-minute point production of any player in his division and he's on track to get its highest shooting percentage in a decade.
There may be serious ground to cover when Gonzaga, located in Spokane, Wash., faces Pittsburgh on Saturday, but Olynyk has more than earned his way into the spotlight.
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1992: Duke vs. Kentucky - Elite 8
With just 2.1 seconds left, Duke's Grant Hill heaved a pass down to Christian Laettner, who was all the way at the free throw line. Laettner caught it, stepped back and swished a fade away jumper to beat Kentucky as the Blue Devils advanced to the Final four.
1983: N.C. State vs. Houston - National Championship
Tied at 52, Lornezo Charles put back Derrick Whittenburg's air ball and dunked it as time expired to give N.C State a 74-72 victory over Houston in the 1983 National Championship game.
1998: Valparaiso vs. Ole Miss - 1st Round
In the first round, No. 14 seed Valparaiso's Bryce Drew nailed a 3-pointer as time expired, giving the Rebels a 70-69 victory over Ole Miss.
2003: Maryland vs. UNCW - 1st Round
Down 73-72 with five seconds left in regulation, Maryland's Drew Nicholas dribbled down the court and nailed a desperation 3-pointer to put away UNCW in the first round, 75-73.
1995: Missouri vs. UCLA - 2nd Round
Down 74-73 in the second round of the 1995 NCAA tournament, Tyus Edney of UCLA drove the ball the full length of the court and made a tough layup, leading the Bruins past Missouri and into the Sweet 16.
1998: UCONN vs. Washington - Sweet 16
Down 74-73 in the Sweet 16, Rip Hamilton of Connecticut grabbed the loose ball and hit a fade away jumper at the buzzer to beat Washington 75-74.
2006: Texas vs. West Virginia - Sweet 16
After West Virginia tied the game at 71 with five seconds remaining, Texas' Kenton Paulino knocked down a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Mountaineers 74-71.
1981: Arkansas vs. Louisville - 2nd Round
In the second round of the 1981 NCAA tournament, U.S Reed nailed a half court shot at the buzzer, giving Arkansas the victory over the defending champs Louisville.
1990: UCONN vs. Clemson - Sweet 16
Down 70-69 to Clemson with just one second on the clock, Connecticut's Tate George caught a full court pass, turned around and made a short jumper as time expired and Uconn won 71-70.
1992: Georgia Tech vs. USC - 2nd Round
James Forrest of Georgia Tech <a href="http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2004/03/21/gat_409468.shtml" target="_blank">hadn't made a 3-pointer all season. </a>With one second showing on the clock, Forrest received the inbound pass and threw up a 3-pointer. It fell right in, giving the Yellow Jackets a 79-78 victory over USC.
2010: Michigan State vs. Maryland - 2nd Round
After Greivis Vasquez and the Terps rallied to take a one-point lead with 6.6 seconds remaining, Korie Lucious nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Michigan State into the Sweet 16.
2010: Murray State vs. Vanderbilt - 1st Round
Trailing by one point with 4.2 seconds left, Murray State's Danero Thomas received a pass at the top of the key and took one dribble to his right. Then he stopped, took a fadeaway jumper and nailed a game-winning buzzer beater to upset Vanderbilt.
1984: VCU vs. Northeastern - 1st Round
With his team trailing Jim Calhoun's Northeastern squad 69-68 with two seconds remaining, VCU's Rolando Lamb received the inbounds pass just inside the 3-point line. Lamb then turned around and threw up a quick shot and made it at the buzzer. The No. 6 Rams avoided the upset.
1986: Iowa State vs. Miami (OH) - 1st Round
With just two seconds remaining and the score tied at 79, Iowa State's Jeff Hornacek received the inbounds pass just beyond the 3-point line. He took one dribble, turned and nailed a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
2011: Butler vs. ODU - 1st Round
Butler's Matt Howard was in the right place at the right time after a desperation shot missed in the final seconds. Howard was there for the rebound and quick put-back just as time expired, giving the No. 8 Bulldogs a 60-58 win.
1990: UNC vs. Oklahoma - 2nd Round
No. 8 UNC inbounded the ball underneath the Oklahoma basket with eight seconds remaining and the score tied at 77. Rick Fox got the ball on the right wing, drove the baseline and made a running layup as time expired to knock off the No. 1 Sooners.
2008: Western Kentucky vs. Drake - 2nd Round
Trailing by one point with time winding down, No. 12 Western Kentucky's Ty Rogers got the ball well behind the 3-point line on the right wing. He hoisted a desperation 3-pointer and hit nothing but net, ending No. 5 Drake's season.
1977: Marquette vs. UNC Charlotte - Final Four
Marquette had to inbound the ball from under its own basket and score in three seconds to avoid overtime. Butch Lee launched a pass toward Jerome Whitehead all the way in the far paint. Whitehead recovered the deflected ball, turned around and made a layup at the buzzer to send Marquette into the championship game.
2000: Florida vs. Butler - 1st Round
Trailing by one with seven seconds remaining, Mike Miller of the No. 5 Florida Gators got the ball on the left wing. He dribbled to his right and through the lane, throwing up a running layup. It fell through the net as time expired, sending Florida to the second round.