Gonzaga's performance on Friday, while against subpar competition, was extremely encouraging. The offensive flow appeared to be running in full force even though there are several newcomers that played a big role. Defensively, the Zags attacked passing lanes and hit the boards on their way to a dominating win over Sacramento State. Let's look at some of the stats that stood out as look towards SMU...
3... Przemek Karnowski points in the first half. For how beautiful of a first half it was, the glaring weakness for the Zags was the play of their junior center. While Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis picked up Karnowski's slack, there continues to be concern about how consistent of a threat he can be on this team. While it was great seeing his frontcourt mates pick up his slack, it will be interesting to see how the staff juggles the rotation should Przemek continue to struggle this year. He had a considerably better second half and looked like he was more involved in the flow but the Zags need Karnowski to be a dominant force to truly hit its stride throughout the season.
12... steals in last night's game. Including four by Byron Wesley. Sacramento State was clearly overmatched throughout the night but Gonzaga's defensive was very impressive. The Bulldogs were active on the perimeter as they jumped several passing lanes on its way to amassing 12 takeaways. This is even more impressive when you consider that the Zags only turned the ball over 12 times meaning that there was a 1:1 relationship between the two numbers. In years past, the Bulldogs' turnover numbers greatly exceeded their steals so if they can close that gap, it would be massive for their success.
24... assists vs. those 12 aforementioned turnovers. Given the Bulldogs spread out scoring distribution, this number has been well discussed but it is worth mentioning the 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Josh Perkins had six assists while Gary Bell had five to lead the Zags. Excluding Angel Nunez, who struggled to take care of the ball on Friday and amassed 4 turnovers, Gonzaga would have had a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio in the opening contest. If Josh Perkins can continue to distribute the ball at a high level as the competition increases, it will open up the floor a lot more for guys like Bell and Pangos to knock down open shots which we saw plenty of on Friday.
46... combined minutes for Bell and Pangos. This is my personal favorite stat of the game as it was 46 beautiful minutes for Gonzaga's senior starting backcourt. The pair combined to go 9-14 from the field while dishing out eight assists against just one turnover. While you don't want to explicitly keep these guys on a 'pitch count', I think it will be crucial to keep them out of the 30+ minute range as much as possible. Not only have they both logged a ton of minutes in their three year careers, they've also sustained a number of injuries over that time. If Josh Perkins and Kyle Dranginis can prove worthy of big minutes, it will pay major dividends for Pangos and Bell.
17th... This is where SMU finished last season in KenPom's defensive efficiency ratings. With Larry Brown at the helm, you know this team is going to be outstanding on the defensive end and that is what they were a season ago. With the recent news that junior forward Markus Kennedy would be ineligible for the first half of the season, the Mustangs took a big hit but this will still be a solid test for the Zags. Luckily for Brown, he has a very deep and talented roster that should be able to match up well with the depth of the Bulldogs. It will be a great contest come Monday night in Spokane.