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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Texas A&M


NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

I’m sorry to report that the central time zone defeated me in the battle of sleep versus hoops, and I missed the live airing of another casual blowout victory for the Zags against one of those power conference teams the naysayers are always complaining they never play. Thanks to DVR, however, I got to catch up with the rest of you. Here’s what I took away from Gonzaga’s final tuneup before the Maui Invitational:

  1. Mark Few tried out a 1-2-2 three-quarter court press very early in the game with Rui at the tip and some aggressive attempts at backcourt traps. Rui’s physical traits make him a natural point man for this press and I like the prospects of it for the future if the Zags don’t abandon it. In this game, however, there was a lack of cohesion and communication with it though it ultimately created fairly good outcomes.
  2. Geno Crandall has the look of a man still trying to get comfortable within Gonzaga’s offensive structure. His defense has certainly been a positive, but his offensive contributions have been a mixed bag so far. He’s shown good passing ability and a willingness to distribute the ball, but it’s clear that he is still searching for his shooting rhythm.
  3. TJ Starks has a phenomenal first step and was consistently getting penetration against a variety of Gonzaga defenders. A&M is asking him to do too much right now, but in what looks to be a transition year for his program he provides that fan base with a reason to tune in every game.
  4. We knew about Brandon Clarke’s defensive bona fides going into the season, but I wasn’t ready for how fun he is to watch on that end of the floor. He’s not physically imposing like a Przemek Karnowski or a Zion Williamson, but he has a presence at the defensive end and he has to be the first talking point on opposing scouting reports when breaking down Gonzaga’s defense. His steal and two handed dunk early in the second half was pretty special too.
  5. Kispert to Clarke to Snacks. What a sequence. Kispert got it going with a picture perfect two handed block by staying vertical when he contested at the rim. You don’t often see small forwards executing that so cleanly at the rim, and he gave himself the opportunity to make that play by keeping his head on a swivel and reading the A&M player’s slip from the weak side. Clarke’s confidence in breaking out with the ball and feeding Norvell with a bounce pass in stride that allowed him to finish with an authoritative one handed dunk is a great indicator of his comfort level with his new teammates. This sequence gave me visions of beautiful positionless basketball and I’m not mad about it.
  6. Texas A&M struggled mightily against UC Irvine’s zone defense, so you knew Mark Few was going to try it out a few times during the game. Not because the Zags needed the zone to stop the Aggies, but to get some reps with it in case they run into Duke in a few days.
  7. Congratulations to Josh Perkins on picking up his 500th career assist. He’s taken his distribution to a higher level this season, and if he stays healthy he’ll easily claim the title of Gonzaga’s all-time assist leader.
  8. Rui has been as good as we expected him to be through the first three games of the season, but I do wonder what’s happened to his free throw shooting. He was an excellent free throw shooter for most of last season before regressing a bit late in the year. His conversion rate has continued to dip at the start of this season, and he’s only making 65% of his freebies so far. His shooting motion still looks good, but his balance hasn’t been consistent.
  9. The Zags weren’t sharp on offense for the first 16 minutes of this game, but still scored 43 points in the first half and 94 points overall. And, they did it without Killian Tillie while also shooting a pedestrian clip from the three-point line. This team is for real.
  10. We want all the smoke.