While there isn't a whole lot we can learn from Saturday night's game, it was great to get a look at some of the lineups employed by the staff and get a sense for how this new look roster plays together. One of the more enjoyable aspects of last night was watching how the new players impacted some of the veterans. More than anything, it was a very sobering game. While phrases like scary deep, super talented, and possibly best ever may prove to be true, I really think we are going to see some severe leaps and bounds this season as this team gels. Let's take a look at some aspects from last night that jumped out to me:
If Gonzaga is going to get past the Sweet 16, Josh Perkins has to be the most impactful freshman
One of my biggest pet peeves in years past is the fact that Gonzaga had incredible offensive ball clubs but they were pretty easy to gameplan for. Far too often, opposing teams would collapse on the Zags in halfcourt sets and beg the guards to take them out from deep. We saw it with Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk and even saw it last year with Karnowski and Dower. This year, Gonzaga has a couple new assets that should deter teams from doing this. The first thing being a wing in Byron Wesley that can score from anywhere on the floor and at least make his defender have to guard the perimeter. The second is Josh Perkins who may be one of the best exterior passers the Zags have had. Gonzaga has talented shooters in Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos but the floor was often poorly spaced because David Stockton was so keyed in on feeding the post. This year, expect to see Perkins force the action a bit more with drives into the lane and then kicking it out to Bell and Pangos for the open look or feeding a cutter for an easy lay-in. We saw some of this on Saturday and if Perkins can continue to space the floor with his looks, it could pay huge dividends for his veteran backcourt mates.
Wiltjer, Sabonis, and Karnowski on floor together...no, thanks
Gonzaga still has a lot of questions to answer on the defensive end. I still have nightmares about how they defend some of the athletic frontcourts in the nation, particularly Arizona, Duke, and Kentucky. For this reason, the above group can't be on the floor together. Wiltjer likes to play on the outside offensively but on defense, he is going to be a liability which is one of the reasons he got limited run at Kentucky. Karnowski we all know has a huge passion for committing fouls at very odd points in the game. This trio, while tall as heck, would get assaulted on the defensive end. The staff went out and got an outstanding wing in Byron Wesley and has Kyle Dranginis and Silas Melson to play on the wing. This is also a role where Angel Nunez could really shine against athletic competition.
This is one of the main reasons I would pay major money to see Gonzaga scrimmage Texas on Saturday. The Longhorns are one of the few programs that boast a frontocourt that, right now, looks better than Gonzaga. They are better because they have elite athleticism in guys like Myles Turner and pure back to the basket ability in Cameron Ridley. It would be fascinating to see how Mark Few elects to try and slow those guys down.
It'a all about the defense (as usual)
Gary Bell threw out the following quote for a reason:
"The depth is nice," Bell said. "You can play all out ... and the guys that can come in and fill your spot are just as good. We can obviously score the ball. We have a lot of scorers, but if we focus on defense we can be really good."
If you scan the college basketball landscape, you aren't likely to find an offense like the one Mark Few possesses this year. It is truly an embarrassment of riches this season in Spokane. That said, the defense is likely to once again be suspect. Allowing 69 points in an exhibition matchup isn't the end of the world but there were subtle signs that some issues of the past will once again pop up this year. Thompson Rivers attempted 21 three-point attempts and coverted seven but they had a number of open looks that they missed on. Przemek Karnowski once again struggled to stay on the floor as he picked up early fouls and ended the game with four to his name. Gonzaga will find out quickly just how big of an issue this is as they scrimmage Texas this coming weekend and then SMU awaits on November 17th.