It is always a little pointless to put too much stock into the first couple of games of a basketball season. Normally, teams of Gonzaga’s stature haven’t played a really meaningful game yet, and the resulting box scores are a bit skewed and reflect that imbalance in talent.
At the same time, we can try to identify trends taking place and talk about them. Because if we didn’t do that, what would be the point of this blog? One of the key things that has emerged in the Gonzaga playbook is that it appears Mark Few and company have given the players the green light to shoot from long range. And the players are taking them up on that offer.
The Zags have shot (and made) more three pointers through two games since the statistics let me go back and look them up.
- 2017: 25 for 60
- 2016: 15 for 41
- 2015: 17 for 45
- 2014: 20 for 48
- 2013: 21 for 50
- 2012: 15 for 29
- 2011: 16 for 42
- 2010: 18 for 40
It is by quite a long shot as well. Josh Perkins is averaging 8.5 3PA per game and Zach Norvell is averaging six. Corey Kispert and Silas Melson are getting in on the action at 4.5 per game. Again, these are all small sample sized numbers averaging the total of two games, but it wouldn’t be that surprising to see the trend continue.
Perkins has settled into more of a three-point specialist shooting role—he has taken four times as many three point shots as he has two point shots. Norvell is a bit more balanced on his splits, same with Melson. Kispert has taken twice as many three point shots as he has two pointers.
All of this should be welcome, and not much of a surprise either. Mark Few has always loved his inside/out game, and the ability of the Gonzaga backcourt to hit threes opens up the freedom of the frontcourt to wreak havoc in the post. And while the Zags are hitting the threes, they might as well push their game forward in that regard.
Right now, there are 25 teams who have made as many threes (25) as Gonzaga, taken as many three point attempts (60) as Gonzaga, and have a three point percentage higher than 40. Of these 25 teams, only Gonzaga, New Mexico and Davidson have accomplished this feat in two games.
There are dangers to this approach, however. Perkins, even if he is hitting them, cannot become overtly reliant on the three. Perkins generates a lot of his shooting opportunities off of the ball screen. If that is his routine going forward, defenses will be wiser and just fight through the ball screen and keep a hand on his face at all times.
But this is just nickel and diming a good thing going right now. The Zags are not dependent on the three pointer quite yet. Three pointers account for 36.9 percent of their points, the 78th highest mark in the nation.
How well this happens moving forward remains to be seen. According to Ken Pomeroy, the Zags have the No. 327 ranked non-conference schedule so far, which is understandable considering they have played two cupcakes at home. The real indicator of whether or not the lights are off will come in the PK80 next week.