The Gonzaga Bulldogs absolutely crushed the Utah Utes in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Zags earned a date with the Sweet 16 and a potential solid shot and the Elite 8, thanks in large part to the early demise of Michigan State.
There was a lot to be excited about last night. Eric McClellan showed up to play, leading the Zags with 22 points. Domantas Sabonis notched another double-double. Kyle Wiltjer proved once again to be a nightmare to defend. The Zags shot the ball well and took care of it on offense, only turning the ball over nine times.
Most impressively, the Zags' defense wiped Utah off the map. Jordan Loveridge finished with zero points. Jakob Poeltl, a sure-fire first round draft pick, had five points off of just five field goal attempts. No one could get anything going for Utah as the team shot just 42.3 percent from the floor.
The result was lopsided and fun to watch. It was also statistically one of the most dominant performances by a Gonzaga basketball team in the school's NCAA Tournament history.
It is hard to measure overall team effort in any statistically meaningful way, but by taking a look at Gonzaga's ORtg, and comparing it to their opponent's ORtg, you can kind of get an indicator of how well a team played on both ends of the floor. In tie games, or close games, that gap is slight to non-existent. Even in big blow out games, teams can turn the ball over excessively or just do a poor job at the free throw line to take that ORtg down a few notches. Last night wasn't the case.
Gonzaga finished the game averaging 1.26 points per possession. Utah finished the game averaging just 0.91 points per possession, good for a differential of 0.35. That difference is the largest in any Gonzaga win in the NCAA Tournament, pretty hardily beating out the drubbing of Iowa from last year and narrowly beating Gonzaga's demolition of West Virginia in 2012.
Here are the ORtgs from every Gonzaga NCAA Tournament win. Some are culled from Ken Pomeroy's site, and others from my own calculations. Not the most mathematically sound way to do it, but the variation between the two calculations is pretty small.
|opp. ORtg||GU ORtg||differential|
|North Dakota State||1.09||1.23||0.14|
Last night's win was huge for a lot of reasons. The Zags are in the Sweet 16 for the second-straight year and are priming themselves for a run into the Elite 8 as well. This team is playing some of its best basketball of the entire season when it is mattering most, and it is so much fun to watch.
Considering that this team's NCAA Tournament hopes looked DOA after the loss to Saint Mary's, every win this year has been extra special. Once the Zags kept the tournament streak alive, anything past that just seemed like an extra scoop of toppings at the ice cream parlor when the parents are looking. Now, Gonzaga its primed to do some damage. This team has essentially rewrote its entire history of the season within the past month, and it has been one hell of a ride.