The Bulldogs were clicking on the offensive end, scoring 100 points in a victory over the Bryant Bulldogs on Saturday. Sam Dower was absolutely fantastic, leading the Zags with 21 points and 17 rebounds as Gonzaga shot 53 percent from the floor and the Zags opened the season with at least 100 points for the second-consecutive season.
Mark Few settled in with an eight-man rotation, with a semi-surprising star by David Stockton. A small lineup will be one of the consistent themes of the season it looks like. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell each finished with 14 points, although Pangos was cold from beyond the arc. New transfer Gerard Coleman was great in his first game, scoring 15 points and giving a serious boost of athleticism on the floor. The Przemek Karnowski finished with 10 points in just 12 minutes, but also tallied four fouls in the process. With Karnowski riding the bench for much of the first half, Few ran out a small four-guard rotation with Dower anchoring the post.
Meet the opponent
Colorado St. Rams: 1-0, 103 Kenpom,
The Colorado State Rams booked on Gonzaga's schedule aren't really the Colorado State Rams of last season. Last season, the Rams made it to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year where they lost to the Louisville Cardinals in the third round. Last season, the Rams peaked at No. 22 in the AP Poll, the highest ranking for the school since 1953-54 season.
The Rams look drastically different this year after they lost their top five scorers to graduation. Their highest scorer from last year still on the team is junior guard Daniel Bejarano, who averaged 6.3 points per game last season. He was also named the Mountain West Conference's Sixth Man of the Year. As the score of their first win over UC Colorado Springs showed, however, the Rams haven't skipped a scoring beat.
Last season the Rams averaged 72.9 points per game, good for 49th in the country. They liked to push the tempo, but they also did it mostly on the inside. The Rams only shot 532 three-point attempts last season (compared with Gonzaga at 609). If their first game box score is any indication, not much has changed. The Rams took only 13 three-point shots on Thursday.
The Rams rely simply playing steady defense and outscoring their opponent. They were 313th in the nation in steals and 287th in blocks last season, so even without looking at the game tape it is clear they don't make a lot of gambles on defense. Sounds quite simple but it equates for a very solid game plan.
What to look out for
Bejarano opened the season with a monster line of 17 points, 16 rebounds and five assists. The 16 rebounds are a bit of an aberration, but he does rebound better than most guards. He averaged 5.5 rebounds a game last season and had eight or more rebounds in seven games. He is a tall guard, or at least taller than Pangos, Bell and Stockton. Keeping him off the glass will help the Zags with a lot of second chance points.
One of the big takeaways from the season opener against Bryant was Karnowski's foul trouble. After only one game, we can't necessarily call it something to look out for, but it was a trademark of his freshman season as well. Karnowski's second foul on Friday, in particular, was a completely unnecessary foul and one that has to be avoided. The opposing team's game plan can't be to charge at Karnowski until he fouls out, because it forces the Zags to go very small. That lineup will work against an equally small team like Bryant, but against larger programs, we aren't quite so sure.
The Rams are good at finding the open shot. They finished with 99 points in their season opener, tallying 17 assists and shooting 60 percent from the floor in the process. A lot of that comes from taking the extra pass, and just as much comes from driving and attacking the rim. They racked up 39 free-throw attempts against UC Colorado Springs, and this is why it will be especially important for Karnowski to be smart. With Karnowski and Dower in at the same time, the Zags will have a serious size advantage upfront. Don't be surprised to see Colorado State attack Karnowski early and often.