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Weekly Zag Briefing

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

We're bursting at the seams with Zag-related information this week! Let's get to it:

  • This probably deserves its own post but I'll lead off with it here. After the Zags dismantled Seton Hall last Thursday, the New York Times is advocating for a nationwide Big East that includes Gonzaga and the team from Moraga to form a coast-to-coast basketball power-conference. Following the football-related implosion of the Big East as we knew it, and the subsequent loss of its standing as one of the nation's premier basketball conferences, the powers that be are searching for ways to recapture former glories. In terms of strong basketball-only schools with like-minded institutional philosophies, the additions of Gonzaga and Saint Mary's into the Big East makes sense. It's easy to say "add Gonzaga", but such a move would be fraught with so many logistical nightmares that it almost assuredly would not be worth it. But it's still an interesting thought exercise, especially in light of Mark Few's recent comments about the rest of the WCC needing to pull its weight.
  • ESPN's Jeff Goodman wrote a survival plan for each team left in the tournament. You can follow the link to see what he wrote for each team, but here's what he had to say about the Zags:

What they did right: They played terrific defense. The Zags guarded the 3-point line and also rebounded the ball well. On offense, they didn't ask too much of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, as has often been the case.

What they did wrong: There's nothing to nitpick. They guarded, made shots, rebounded well and took care of the ball.

What they need to do to survive: Find a way to keep defenses honest so they don't focus solely on Wiltjer and Sabonis. The Bulldogs also need to guard the 3-point line.

  • Kyle Wiltjer admitted that he started gunning it from deep all the way back in 4th grade. In the article is also effusive praise for this team from Mark Few, "I've never been as satisfied and happy, you know, just thoroughly, thoroughly pleased with a group, with just how they've responded and gotten so much better over the course of the year."
  • ESPN examined the best defining qualities and weaknesses of each head coach in the Sweet 16. The article is behind a pay-wall, so we can't share all of it with you, but here's what it had to say about Mark Few (*cough* 18 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, come on ESPN):

Defining quality: This one's so obvious on one level, but familiarity can lead us to miss the forest for the trees. Few's defining quality is that he has taken a WCC program to 17 consecutive NCAA tournaments. No one would have thought that possible when he took the job in 1999. It remains on the very short list of the most impressive coaching feats we've seen in recent years.

Weakness: Gonzaga has never been a high-pressure defense that forces turnovers, but this season in WCC play, the Bulldogs' opponents actually held onto the ball even better than the Zags themselves. (And Gonzaga's turnover rate was excellent.) With the elite teams that remain in the field, there will be an unusually large number of chances to score against Gonzaga. So there's potential for big scoring runs by opponents.

  • Myron Medcal of ESPN also re-seeded the remaining 16 teams in the field. This time around, the Zags get a 2-seed as the 8th best team left in the field. Here's what Medcalf had to say:
This season, an 11-seed made sense for a Gonzaga team that entered the tournament via the WCC's automatic berth after securing few quality wins during the regular season. But Gonzaga saved its best basketball for a 16-point win over 6-seed Seton Hall and a 23-point victory over 3-seed Utah at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Domantas Sabonis elevated his NBA draft stock by averaging 20 points, 13 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 blocks in the two wins. And the Zags' offense made 53 percent of its shots inside the arc. But it was Gonzaga's defense that changed its path. Seton Hall's Isaiah Whitehead (4-for-24), an all-Big East first-teamer, and Utah's Jakob Poeltl (five points), the Pac-12 Player of the Year and an NBA lottery prospect, recorded their worst offensive performances of their respective seasons against the Zags.
  • Everyone else is beginning to learn a truth that what we've known around these parts for a really long time: Domantas Sabonis is an exceptional basketball player. Our friends at the SBNation mothership wrote a great article examining just how much Domas dominated Jakob Poeltl in their much-ballyhoed matchup on Saturday.
  • Sticking with the Domas theme, we mentioned this on the site yesterday but in case you missed it, Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn wrote a great feature on how Sabonis is the best big man left in the tournament. We agree with that sentiment around these parts. Honestly, he was the best big man in the tournament to begin with.
  • Okay you guys/girls, literally everyone loves Domantas now. Domas has been the flavor of the week for college basketball writers everywhere, apparently. This article has some really good quotes from Ryan Edwards, Wiltjer, and others.
  • Nice piece from the NY Post on Gonzaga's March resurgence after an up-and-down season. Best quote from the article: "Then March arrived, and Gonzaga, magically, became Gonzaga again." Except it's not magic, the team undoubtedly worked extremely hard to re-tool and right the ship after losing Przemek and struggling with some adversity through February.
  • Rob Sacre has declared Gonzaga to be "America's team." Keep waving the banner down in LA, Sacre!
  • Per Gonzaga Guru, Kyle Dranginis has a chance to become Gonzaga's all-time winningest player should the Zags beat Syracuse on Friday. A win would push him past Pangos into the top spot with 143 career wins. A very cool accomplishment.
  • The Lady Zags wrapped up their season on Monday night with a second-round loss to Utah (what an interesting coincidence) in the Women's NIT. Congratulations on a fine season, ladies!