Gonzaga kicks off the WCC season with a trip to BYU on December 27th. After that, the Zags have only one game left that isn't against a WCC opponent, as they host Memphis on January 31st. With that said, this is probably a good time to take a look at what we learned about this team over the first six weeks of the season.
Gonzaga has knocked off 5 potential NCAA Tournament Teams
Looking back at the eleven wins so far, it looks like the Zags have wins over five teams that could be playing in March. Barring a collapse, it looks like both SMU and St. John's will be playing in the NCAA Tournament. SMU has won six straight and has a great chance to win a very down AAC. St. John's could turn out to be the marquee win, as it has won nine of ten and has victories over Minnesota, Syracuse and St. Mary's.
So you may be wondering what other three teams may be playing in March. Georgia has started to play some really good basketball and could end up being a top three or four team in the SEC. As hard as it may be, ignore UCLA's drubbing against Kentucky. In the Pac-12, the Bruins will have multiple chances to pick up resume-boosting wins, and with the talent they have, it should do enough to earn a berth. The last team that will be dancing is Texas Southern. This is easily the most talented team in the SWAC, and once it has all of the buy games out of the way, expect it to win the SWAC.
Has Gonzaga played any of its best/worst games?
There is an old adage in college basketball, that a teams plays five great games and five horrid games a year. In theory, the rest are an actual reflection of how good the team really is. So looking at the schedule, has Gonzaga contributed to any of those 10 outlier games yet?
Looking at the schedule, St. Joseph's is clearly a case of the Zags playing at their absolute best. It was one of the most dominant performances in recent memory. You could perhaps say the same thing about the SMU game, but it's key to remember that the Mustangs were without Markus Kennedy for that game. However, let's count that game as the Zags still played simply outstanding.
As for the other side of the performance scale, look no further than the Battle In Seattle. Playing against Cal Poly, the Zags turned the ball over 16 times to only 10 assists and shot 45% from the field. Against a better team, this would've led to a loss. With that said, this is really the only questionable performance through the first 12. One of the advantages of the WCC is that Gonzaga can sometimes still have these sub par efforts yet end up with the win.
What should we make of the Arizona game?
Honestly, the reaction of the team to the loss against Arizona hasn't been that great. There was a hope that the Zags would take that loss and use it as motivation to roll through the rest of the season. However, in the four games since, the team has only impressed against UCLA. With this being such an experienced group, there is still the expectation that they can use the Arizona game as a stepping stone to become even more united and take the overall play to the next level.
What to expect from Eric McClellan?
One of the aspects of this 11-1 start that has been lost in the shuffle is the fact that Gonzaga has done so without potentially their most athletic wing. Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan becomes eligible on January 6, and he is poised to make a big impact. The last time he was on the court, McClellan was leading Vanderbilt in scoring. He is a very athletic wing that isn't a great shooter, but finishes really well at the rim. The biggest impact area for McClellan could be on the defensive end, where he has the ability to limit any perimeter player. Also, very similar to Byron Wesley, he has the ability to create his own shot, which will be key when the offense gets stagnant.