Gonzaga 10:1…… (10:1 when posted)
Mark Few is the most underrated coach in college basketball. If he just made it to the Final 4 he’d finally get the credit he deserves. The Zags are FOR REAL this year, did you see they’re undefeated?!?!
Get ready to hear some semblance of those conversations approximately 1 million times until March. The question is… but seriously though are the Zags for real this year? Can’t BYU or St. Mary’s just knock them off so we can all agree they’re getting bounced in the Sweet 16 and end this bullshit once and for all?
We can’t? Goddamnit. Fine, let’s take a look at the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Following in the footsteps of legendary point guard Dan Dickau, 2 years ago Nigel Williams-Goss decided it was his turn to leave the University of Washington behind and transfer 300 miles east to lead the Zags to March glory. The parallels don’t stop there. Williams-Goss also transferred after his sophomore year, and as a red-shirt junior he’s putting together a WCC player of the year caliber season (an honor Dickau won in 2002). His game is smooth, it looks like he’s going 3/4 speed yet he’s blowing by everyone. At 6’3 he has great size for a point guard but doesn’t look particularly big or intimidating. He’s currently #6 on the Kenpom player of the year rankings averaging 14.8 ppg, 5.6 reb, and 4.9 assists per game. He defines an all-around player, but he leaves something to be desired. He doesn’t have that takeover scorer mentality that Dickau had when he balled out with 19 and 21 ppg his last 2 years in Spokane.
Manning the middle, Przemek Karnowski is everyone’s favorite friendly Polish bear. Even standing at 7-1, 300 pounds he looks like he’d be a great cuddler instead of a fearful behemoth.
You see the resemblance? As a senior he’s continually improved, his fundamentals are excellent and he has a great shooter’s touch. The main issue is he needs to wake up the beast inside. He should be wreaking havoc at that size but he instead continually defers to his European heritage by stepping out to take the J or using a cute little flip shot. C’mon my man, slam that shit!
To round out the starters the Zags have very efficient shooting guards in Josh Perkins and Senior transfer (from Cal) Jordan Matthews who are hitting over 40% from 3. Red-shirt junior Jonathan Williams gives them some size and spacing as he can step out and knock down the 3 as well at 6’9. 7 foot freshman Zach Collins has been putting up crazy per-minute averages and leads the team in rebounds and is 3rd in points at a measly 17 minutes per game. Collins was a big time recruit at #33 overall, and the pairing of him and Karnowski at center is overpowering. His development will be key to how deep the Bulldogs go in March.
It’s truly unbelievable that Mark Few has reloaded yet again after losing his 2 bona fide stars from last year’s squad. The 6’10 tandem of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis last year combined for 38 ppg and 18 rebounds per game. Not too shabby. This year however, the Bulldogs are playing with a lot more continuity which is strange considering how many new players and transfers they have on the floor. The one thing they do have though is a boatload of experience and it shows. Their team defense ranks 4th (via Kenpom) and they win with a balanced attack as 7 guys score at least 8.5 ppg.
The main difference between this team and failed Zags teams of years past is they finally have gritty defense. Coincidentally, I think it’s the lack of scoring punch that’s going to hold them back. They’re still ranked extremely high in offensive efficiency, but it’s easy to boost those numbers against the dregs of the WCC. Previous Gonzaga offenses always had a star scorer to rely on in the clutch…Dickau, Adam Morrison, Wiltjer, Kelly Olynk, the list goes on. There isn’t a singular talent on this team that makes me jump off my couch. Despite their lofty rankings championships aren’t won on paper, and that’s a major weakness for this squad. So is the fact that even though they’re all upperclassman, there’s no big-game March experience to speak of. Sorry to be “that guy” Spokane, but the streak will continue. The Zags are getting bounced in the Sweet 16. There’s always next year.
VERDICT: LAY OFF