One of the key attributes of being a Cinderella team is looking like a bunch of schmucks, who in the grand scheme of things don't necessarily look like they belong. In normal basketball teams, this generally translates to teams that are less athletic, but make up for it with true grit.
It is the teams made up of the David Pendagrafts and the Mike Harts of the world. The true Cinderella's beat better teams because they play better as a team. They realize that the sum is greater than the individual parts, and once any coach is able to truly instill that into their players' attitudes, that run is always present and always dangerous.
What we saw tonight was a vintage performance from the Zags. It was not a pretty performance by any stretch of the word. It was gritty, it was ugly, it was sloppy, it was flailing, and most of all it resulted in a win.
Take a look at the stats. Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, the top players on the team, finished with ORtgs of 94 and 86 according to Ken Pomeroy. Even though Sabonis was a beast on both sides of the floor, his five turnovers offset quite a bit of his contributions on the offensive end.
Likewise, Wiltjer struggled mightily to hit anything that was within a finger roll of the hoop. Those struggles extended to Josh Perkins and Eric McClellan as well. The only players that finished with decent offensive games were Kyle Dranginis and Silas Melson, if you go by offensive rating.
But of course, offensive rating isn't everything. What it doesn't showcase is that true grit factor. And that was apparent in every play the Zags made. Despite only averaging 0.94 points per possession, well below their normal mark, the Zags won. Depsite turning the ball over 20 times, the Zags won.
They won by diving after every loose ball. They won by never giving up the defensive rebound. Seton Hall came into the game ranked No. 37 in offensive rebound percentage. The Zags crashed the defensive boards with a team ferocity we haven't seen in ages. Sabonis cleaned up as usual, but Dranginis and Melson also got in on that party, securing five defensive rebounds each.
Most importantly, this hustle keyed in on the defensive end. The Zags held Seton Hall to just 0.72 points per possession. They held the Pirates to just 4-of-21 from beyond the arc. Most importantly, they held Isaiah Whitehead, that player everyone said you needed to learn the name of, to his worst game of the season. They held Whitehead, who had scored 20 points in seven straight games, to just 10 points.
The Zags scrapped out a victory in the old Gonzaga way--less flashy than the opponent and just more effort all-around. This sort of game plan takes a complete buy-in, and for now, the team went all in.
And for the time being, the Zags are still in the NCAA Tournament. This team often times seems to perform better as the underdog. We'll find out if that is true on Saturday.