The Gonzaga Bulldogs rolled over their opponent once again last night. Once again, one of the key statistics to jump out was the number of assists the team has made. Quite simply, a brand of completely unselfish basketball has this team's offense clicking like all the preseason hype thought it would.
Now, given, three games is a small sample size. But within those three games, there is some consistency in the offensive game plan. Gonzaga had 24 assists against Sacramento State, 20 against SMU and 21 against Saint Joseph's.
Through three games, that total of 65 assists has Gonzaga tied with BYU for second in the nation, and trailing by just two assists to match Duke at the top spot.
Now, that in itself doesn't mean very much. If you look at the assist percentages of teams throughout college basketball, Gonzaga ranks way down at No. 44 at 65 percent, meaning 65 percent of its field goals come from assists. Wyoming is at the top with an 84 percent rate. Wyoming also plays at the pace of a snail, with a tempo of 58.9. Gonzaga's pace is 69.6, meaning that the Zags accumulate 10 more possessions per game than Wyoming does. Although Wyoming's number is impressive, it makes sense that a team that only runs half court sets would have a high assist rate.
But of those three up there, Gonzaga is doing the best job. The rest of the top 10 schools in assists reads out in a somewhat drab manner, with Notre Dame being the only other school of significance. Possession wise, Gonzaga is doing a much better job at distributing the ball than BYU is, and is just a tad bit behind Duke.
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Theoretically, Gonzaga is doing a much better job than BYU at distributing the ball, because BYU finishes each game with a lot more chances for assists. This makes sense, however, because the offense of BYU revolves around Tyler Haw. When Haws gets the ball, he takes the shot, and his assist percentage sits at 13.5 percent. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga's leadings scorer, sits at 33.6 percent.
Gonzaga has always been a friendly team with the assists year in and year out. This year, we might be seeing our most unselfish basketball because the team has a variety of weapons at hand.Through three games, four Zags are averaging double figures, and the gap between leading scorer and second leading scorer is just 0.7 points per game.
With so many options, Pangos, for example, doesn't have to take the shot or average 20 points per game. He is averaging a career high 5.3 assists per game. His previous career high was last year when he averaged 3.6 assists per game. Gonzaga hasn't had a player average more than five assists per game since Jeremy Pargo averaged six per game in 2007-08. If Pangos keeps up his pace, he should finished within the top-five all time in team history in assists.
And while we are on the subject of Pangos, here is the most important thing to look at. Pangos has zero turnovers. His assist to turnover ratio is an astounding 16:0. In fact, only four players in college hoops right now have zero turnovers and more than 10 assists, and the other three players not named Kevin Pangos have played two games. After Caris LeVert, Mike Talley and Petey McClain all take the court again, Pangos might be the last player standing at that level.
So again, this is a lot of exercises in small sample sizes. But at some point, small sample sizes turn into less small sample sizes and finally into sample sizes. The trend for the Gonzaga Bulldogs through three games is to make that extra pass. It is working well and through three games, three different opponents haven't come anywhere close to solving the puzzle. Gonzaga has the meat of its schedule coming up, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out after the likes of Arizona and UCLA on the road.