There are varying views on statistics, analytics, and other numbers in the form of Excel spreadsheets. Charles Barkley hates them which boosts their positive aspects in my opinion. The one thing it does for me is it helps level set performances into a very black and white perspective. While the sport of basketball can never be fully encapsulated by a statsheet, it is one hell of a supplement. This is especially true when your opinion of a game gets a little 'emotional' which I would say happened last night to yours truly. While I don't think any Gonzaga fan was fully pleased with the performance, the Bulldogs played a very stellar game on its way to a second round win over the Bison.
In looking at the stats, there are a number of things that jumped out from last night that we can delve into a bit more here before focusing in on NDSU:
- The fantastic: Gonzaga allowed just 2 offensive rebounds to the Bison on Friday night. The four games prior, the Zags allowed double-digit offensive boards which really led to some struggles in the WCC Tournament. A lot of this is due to NDSU's lack of size but it is a very large positive from the second round game.
- The "they just played one hell of a game" stat: The Bison shot 48% from deep (10-21). This is the best outside shooting performance from a team against Gonzaga since mid-February when Pacific shot 58%. NDSU was simply hitting shots and I have to ballpark that over half of these makes were strongly contested. That Lawrence Alexander three over Gary Bell's great defense sticks in my head as a key example.
- The yikes stat: This is Gonzaga's sixth consecutive game shooting sub-70% from the free throw line. On Friday night, they were 68% (19-28). This trend is very concerning.
All in all, it resulted in a win and gives the Zags another opportunity to advance into the Sweet 16. In order to get there, the Iowa Hawkeyes stand in the Bulldogs' way. Let's take a quick look at what stands out about the Zags' next opponent:
- The Hawkeyes defend: If you watched 30 seconds of their second round game against Davidson, you know this very well. Davidson shot just 33% or 21-63 from the floor. I would love to tell you that this was a significant trend change but I would be lying. All season long, Iowa has allowed 43% 2P%, which is top-30 in the nation and 32% 3P% which is top-60. They were particularly solid against Davidson but Iowa has gotten after it on defense all year long.
- Aaron White: Is really, really good at the game of basketball. If you look at overall Offensive Rating for this season, Mr. White is No. 3 in the country just behind No. 2 Kevin Pangos. In the Big Ten, he trails only Frank Kaminsky in a number of offensive categories including true shooting percentage and offensive efficiency. He does lead Kaminsky in overall offensive rating, however. One of his best attributes is that he gets to the line in excess. He averages seven free throw attempts per game which is concerning giving the Bulldogs' bigs propensity to foul.
- Supporting cast: Kind of like what we said about North Dakota State, the key won't be Iowa's star player Aaron White. It will be the play of the Hawkeyes supporting cast. Overall, Iowa does not strike you as a stellar offensive club. They are 47% from 2 and 33% from 3, both of which give the Hawkeyes a ranking of 200+. Jarrod Uthoff is Iowa's second best option offensively as he averages just over 10 points per game. He's Iowa's primary three-point threat as he hits 38% of his shots from beyond the arc.
There's no doubting Iowa's incredible opening round performance on Friday but keep in mind that a lot of their success was driven by their absolute dominance on the glass as crushed the Wildcats in that category. Gonzaga will be a completely different animal for the Hawkeyes. Hopefully we see the Zags clean up some of its issues from their opening round game and come out gunning for the Sweet 16.