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10 Observations from the Gonzaga-Arizona game


NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga vs Arizona Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Well that was fun. Gonzaga broke the ‘Zona voodoo, and established its Final Four credentials in front of a national media audience. Here are my thoughts from the game:

  1. Can’t say enough about how impressive Przemek Karnowski has been so far, and in particular this game. Only one year removed from disc surgery on his back, Karnowski is seemingly at his best. Arizona wasn’t sure how to play him, frequently opting not to help or send guards to dig out of respect for his immense passing ability. This meant Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche spent most of the game getting backed down and watching Karnowski drop in another hook shot over them.
  2. Gonzaga’s ball movement through the first 10-15 minutes was exceptional. It was free-flowing and moving side to side with pace. As such, it was no surprise that all 5 starters scored after only four-plus minutes into the game.
  3. Zach Collins got stuffed while attempting to posterize Keanu Pinder. Unfazed, he got a block of his own on the defensive end, then drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key. He did have a brain fart moment when he threw a bad entry pass from the top of the key, then failed to track Kadeem Allen as he ran back on defense while chastising himself. By the time he realized Allen was pushing the ball, he was in a bad position to defend Allen’s drive, and gave up an And-1. He’ll learn from that.
  4. Killian Tillie played like a freshman in this game, and it was the first time this season that he failed to score a point. He committed a bad foul trying to deny an entry pass, then put Zach Collins in a difficult position due to an errant pass from the high post. On the plus side, the volleyball player in him always comes out when he makes a block, which is a lot of fun.
  5. Arizona’s personnel losses at the guard spot were highlighted on a single play in the first half. Lauri Markkanen got Josh Perkins switched on to him with the ‘Cats in possession, but Arizona’s guards didn’t recognize or take advantage of the mismatch. Instead, Kobi Simmons drove into a crowd and forced up a tough acrobatic layup attempt that missed iron.
  6. Arizona only had two assists in the first half (7 in the game) when the Zags built their lead. While Gonzaga didn’t exactly stuff the assists category either, their offensive system creates good scoring opportunities for the players. Arizona’s offense is more reliant on the guards creating scoring opportunities, and without Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Allonzo Trier to do so, points were hard to come by for them.
  7. At the start of the year, we said Gonzaga’s offense was quite ahead of the defense. But finally, Gonzaga’s defense is rounding into form. The Zags played zone defense for much of the game, which helped them protect the paint and force Arizona to try to beat them from the perimeter which they’re not equipped to do. Arizona went 1-8 from three (they didn’t make that 3 until 7 minutes left in the game), and the Zags held the Wildcats to 38.6% shooting from the field, forced 12 turnovers, and came away with 7 blocks.
  8. Lauri Markkanen is Arizona’s only deep threat, but his game is too perimeter oriented. He spent a lot of possessions floating from wing to wing. Even when he runs the baseline, it was never with the intention to get something at the basket, he was simply running to the opposite 3-point line.
  9. Curious timeout management by Sean Miller throughout the game. He burned early timeouts in both halves, then used his last timeout with over 2 minutes left in the game at a time when the margin was getting narrower.
  10. Shoutout to Jay Bilas for accepting a Twitter challenge on-air, and agreeing to grow out a beard if Gonzaga makes the Final Four. The Zags HAVE to make the Final Four now. Honest Abe, Przemek Karnowski, and Jay...just a bunch of great beards.