Bryan Alberts: B
After the first three games of the season, Bryan Alberts was looking sharp at 7-11 from behind the arc. He then played single digit minutes over the next 6 games, including 2 tough losses, on a team desperately needing backcourt scoring and another outside threat. Com’on Few, why wasn’t he playing? Perkins and Melson were having a very tough time. Perkins frustrated with his turnovers and fouls, Melson rushing and missing shots to the point where he seemed to lose his confidence. Even though both had experience from the prior year, the enormity of the games seemed to be getting to them causing their frustration and confidence loss. Okay Few, now I got it.
While Perkins and Melson where under the gun, forced to play big minutes in big games, Bryan Alberts was able to ease into his place on the team. Without the added pressure of having to perform under the brightest of lights early in his career, he’s been able to play a slower, more measured game. He’s smart, he’s letting the game come to him instead of trying to force the action. It’s obviously working because Bryan leads the team in three point % at .556 (15 for 27), field goal % at .571 (20 for 35) his turnover/assist ratio is 1.75, not stellar but leads all guards except Dranginis. He’s selective on his shots, but not to the point where one could say he’s afraid to pull the trigger; his 8.0 shots per 40 minutes is in the middle of the pack for the guards, behind Melson and EMac but ahead of Perkins and Dranginis.
After the UCLA game, Bryan became a starter and it might be one of the best coaching moves Mark Few has made this season. Not only does it ease pressure on Melson allowing him to get his game together, it also allows Dranginis to come in off the bench where he feels more comfortable. Maybe the best benefit of Alberts starting is the added three-point threat has loosened the middle. It may not be a coincidence two of Sabonis’s best games of his career came with Alberts starting. Another “not a coincidence”; Gonzaga averaged 14 turnovers the nine games Alberts didn’t start and 7.5 with him as a starter. It may just be the team starting to come together, but that is a pretty significant difference.
Here’s what coach Brian Michaelson had to say about Alberts before the season: “The nice thing about Bryan is that he came with us with a pretty well-rounded skill set, I think he solidified some things and raised his level in a bunch of aspects of his game. He came here as a good shooter. I would say now he’s a very good 3-point shooter, I think that’s the thing he’s improved on the most.” It looks like the coach was correct. Bryan has only played 175 minutes this season (Dranginis at 401 for comparison), so it will be interesting to see if he can keep up his torrid shooting numbers. He played point guard in school, so as his confidence grows I expect to see some more assists and more drives to the basket as opponents are forced to respect his outside shot. I know it’s too early for a valid comparison, but a few years ago GU had a another 6’5” 200lb sweet-shooting guard named Steven Gray. Here’s hoping Bryan hits 7 three’s in his first NCAA tournament game (and another Stephen Curry isn’t on the horizon).