Mark Few- Drops to 24-45 against top 25 teams.
On the surface this is unsettling but after you think about it for a while, does Mark Few really get good enough players to do better against the top 25? In Mark Few's defense, Gonzaga has not produced 1 NBA starter during his tenure. Sure we've had some guys start on occasion due to injury, but nearly every one of Gonzaga alumni has been a role player at best and even more commonly an NBA fringe level talent. So I can't hate on Mark Few for never getting to a final four,because he's never had good enough players such as a Gordon Heyward or a Shelvin Mack to do so. Except maybe the JP Bautista Adam Morrison Derek Raivio team, I was there at Oracle in Oakland to witness that epic collapse, but I should point out that 5 players from that UCLA team went on to play in the NBA.
A more likely explanation for this is our lack of recruiting. Although it is picking up lately, I still find it surprising the lack of top recruits we get, considering we make the tournament and are in the top 25 every year. Off the top of my head I think we've only had 1 top 50 recruit? Obviously I don't think Mark Few is without fault, but more on that later.
Barham-Pangos-Bell-Stockton-Dranginis- Combined for 113 minutes and scored only 12 points, which would have been only 10 points had Karnowski stayed in the game to shoot his free-throws.
Coleman- Played only 15 minutes and scored the same amount of points(12)
Barham- His role on this team is becoming pretty clear, hit a 3 and you stay on the court, if you don't shoot or you miss then you're coming off just as fast.
End of the shot clock- Who exactly do we want with the ball with the clock winding down? We can do the 3 man weave for only so long and pass around the perimeter until the cows come home, but eventually we have to do something with the ball. I'm of the mindset that the more time you run off the shot clock the greater the chances you have of getting stuck with a crappy shot. I mean we have 35 freaking seconds to get a good shot, this isn't the NBA and we're only getting 24. Too often we pass around the perimeter until we're stuck with only 7 seconds left on the clock and we have to rely on either Pangos' or Stockton's isolation game, which is a horrible idea.
Never a press? Besides the final minutes of the games in which we're losing, why does Mark Few refuse to press? Of course the easy answer to this is that he plays his guards so many minutes that he doesn't want to exhaust them by asking them to press. Or possibly he doesn't think Karno and Dower have the footspeed to cover the backend of a press? But with our limitations I think it at least makes sense to do some experimenting and see if we can create some turnovers and easier scoring opportunities. I think Few would be using his personnel wisely if he tried mixing it up and pressing with Bell, Nunez Dranginis and Coleman.
Kevin Pangos- I know I'm not the only one who shares this sentiment, but he really needs weeks off to heal. He has been horribly inefficient on offense, and I believe his minutes would be better served on fresh healthy bodies(Coleman, Dranginis, Nunez). A Pangos playing at this level gives us no chance at March success, which is why we need to give him weeks off so he can come back at close to full strength for the WCC tournament.
David Stockton- Averaging more minutes than both Karnowski and Sam Dower at 28.3 minutes per game. I'm guessing this might have to do with foul trouble or maybe conditioning?? Even Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris played less minutes than Stockton has this year.
Rebounding- Karnowski and Dower are average rebounders at best. Does it make sense for us to put 3 small guards in our starting-lineup to go along with them? Couldn't we try Bell running the point and Nunez playing his natural 3 position just to see what would happen? Or even Bell to go along with Coleman and Dranginis. I guarantee we would be better on defense and on the glass. And I promise our ability to create on offense wouldn't be effected 1 bit.
Final 10 minutes of a close game- Mark Few almost always goes with a 6 man rotation regardless of how well it's working. Also rarely straying from straight man defense, of course this is because defending and rebounding with Stockton Bell and Pangos in a zone can be a potential nightmare. Also when we have small leads we tend to get really conservative and run the shot clock down, this is fine in some instances, but it is a recipe for disaster when the ball is left in Stockton or Pangos' hands with under 10 seconds in the shot clock. None of them really have the ability to get a good shot for themselves or somebody else with such little time on the shot clock. If we had an elite nba level talent with the ball then it would make sense to do this, but I think we need to take whatever good shot we can get as soon as we can get it.
Karnowski- The stat line vs Memphis didn't do him any justice. I lost track of how many times he altered a shot. He covers up for so many of our deficiencies that I can't imagine being without him against elite competition.
Dower- The 1 guy we can count on to score no matter where or who we are playing. As long as Dower and Karnowski are on the court we have a chance to win. Although defensively he is mediocre, you have to admire his efficiency on offense as he is the most efficient player on the Zags. I also think he should be shooting a few more 3 pointers. As he is often much more open than Bell Pangos and Dranginis and seems to shoot just as well.
Weaknesses-I think anybody following Gonzaga will point out that we are in big trouble when we aren't getting easy looks from the perimeter. This really puts the burden on our big men Karnowski and Dower to pick up the slack. Josh Pastner of Memphis said he was ok with Karnowski getting 64 points as long as we weren't getting any open 3-point looks, and he nearly lived up to his word. Against teams with athletic guards there is a huge amount of pressure on Dower and Karnowski. The blueprint is, don't let Pangos and Bell open for easy 3's, close out on them, make them put the ball on the floor, take the guards out of the game and make the big men earn their points. This means that Karnowski will be put into huge pressure packed situations in which we will be dependent on his ft's.
Tournament play- I have to give Few some credit for 14 tournament wins, but we've had as many disappointmens as we've had upsets. For instance last year, we had 2 NBA players on our roster, and we came very very close to losing our lead late in the 2nd half to a 16 seed!! And our whole roster was in tact, the next game as you know we also blew a substantial 2nd half lead to Wichita and lost the game. I can also point to losing our big leads against Western Kentucky as a 4 seed with our loaded roster, Texas Tech, UCLA, and other games when we get blown off the court, (UNC, Syracuse, Nevada, BYU)
Conclusion- Maybe I've gotten jaded with the program, our seasons typically end in the same fashion, I just want Mark Few to start experimenting more and if it comes at the expense of a few wins every year then so be it. I want to run a full court press, I want to play a game in which we use 50 percent zone, I want to play a game where our bench is used throughout the whole game, where 8 guys are getting 20 minutes. I don't want the outcome of our games to be so predicated upon getting wide open 3 pointers. I think it's obvious that the talent level of our team is head and shoulders above the rest of the WCC, but I also think that the skillsets of our players is so diverse that we can afford to experiment with different ways of winning. We don't have to run Pangos and Bell into the ground and play them 38 minutes because we have other guys that are nearly as good. I just hope that Few can trust that we can win with other players getting more minutes. Whatever the case may be, I hate sitting back in conservative mode and just running down the clock and letting teams back into games.