Writing my quick post-game recap last night, I really couldn't help but feel weird. Gonzaga was 5-0, November was over, and we just knocked out a Big East team by 20 points. Rather than bouncing off the walls with jubilation, I can't help but feel anxiety. Gonzaga showed a number of outstanding things in the month of November, but it was against a collection of very weak opposition. As Illinois, Michigan State, Butler, Arizona, Xavier and others all await the Zags in December, I have a number of questions and 'wish list' items that I think this team needs to have a successful December. Personally, I define success in this context as having zero or one loss in the month. It is a tough stretch but a large portion is at home. Illinois and Xavier on the road will be huge tests but both are absolutely winnable games.
With that said, here are a few things that I think need to be addressed before we make leaping statements about this team:
1. Veteran Consistency: Gonzaga's depth is proving to be an incredible asset but offensively, the Zags need the offensive play of Marquise Carter, Sam Dower, and Elias Harris to improve. With a number of young contributors, these three really need to be models of efficiency.
2. Three point defense: The past two games, Gonzaga has fared well in terms of defensive three point percentage. Notre Dame shot 14% from deep and Western Michigan made 1/3 of their threes. With that said, Eastern Washington, WSU, and Hawaii were all 45%+ from deep.
3. Turnovers: Each Zag that averages over 10 minutes per game is also averaging at least a turnover a game. EDIT: Errr...I can't read.
Gonzaga as a team is averaging 13 turnovers a game which is close to worst in the country. Marquise Carter is averaging nearly three a game and Elias Harris averages a couple per contest. What is scary is that these numbers all come for the most part in the friendly confines of the MAC. These could balloon as the Bulldogs hit the road.
4. Freshmen: Kevin Pangos leads the team in minutes per game and Gary Bell is fifth. Both, in my opinion, have been outstanding so far in their early college career but when you rely so heavily on freshmen, there is always that fear of them hitting a wall. At this point, I think Mark Few would just be well served by buy completely into both freshmen and let them loose. Gary Bell in particular hasn't gotten enough minutes in my view. I'd guess that we see his playing time increase quite a bit in December.
Those are the things on my list that I am anxious about in December. I think #1 can really solve a lot of the other questions I have but there are obviously a number of variable here.
What are some of the things you will be watching for in December or are you happy as can be with what you have seen so far?