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10 observations from North Carolina

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9-2

Gonzaga v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It took about 10 minutes for this game to move from exciting to completely over. Luckily, by the end of it, we got to see some good offense from both teams. The final score of 103-90, although not close at all, still seems closer than how the game felt. Gonzaga never had a chance in this game.

My observations reflect that a bit. Rather then dig down deep and analyze every aspect of the game as it played, I preferred to enjoy the company of my friends with a game on in the background.

  1. For the second game in a row, Gonzaga’s defense opened up as flat as possible and left the Zags staring at a deficit for most of the game. The Zags were able to escape those self-made traps against Illinois and Arizona, but against better teams like Tennessee and North Carolina, those starts are brutal. For the past two games, the Zags’ rough start complicates the game plan from the get go.
  2. This morning, the Zags’ defense is ranked No. 63 by Ken Pomeroy. The defensive metrics are locked in a free fall since the narrow escape against the Washington Huskies. No one was expecting a defensive lockdown against North Carolina. The Tar Heel’s offense is too good, and Gonzaga’s defense isn’t good enough, but the Zags can play better defense than yesterday. For whatever reason, call it fatigue, call it confusion, call it whatever, over the past couple of weeks, Gonzaga’s defense has looked flat out lazy. North Carolina was always going to shoot the ball, but the easy drives and lazy transitions make it difficult to stomach.
  3. The Zags were out-rebounded in the game 42-21, which is absolutely insane. There are a few marks that you can read and assume it leads to a loss—and this is definitely one of them. The arrival of Killian Tillie will help somewhat, but something needs to click here. The Zags are a good, not great, offensive rebounding team, and an absolutely terrible defensive rebounding team. The latter portion of the equation is the brutal half. The Zags can’t expect to win games in which they give up 14 or 15 second-chance points.
  4. Speaking of second-chance points: North Carolina owned that mark 27-0. Want another stat that eagerly points to a loss—there you go.
  5. Josh Perkins finished the game with 20 points, and although you can speak quickly to his six turnovers, I’d rather see a game where Perkins scores at this point than one he doesn’t (Tennessee). Perkins tried multiple times to take over on offense late in the second half, and that is the mindset a lot of people like to see from a senior point guard. It was all too little, too late anyway, but it was a nice shift in focus from the Tennessee game in which he took a total of just six shots.
  6. North Carolina forward Luke Maye is one of the better rebounders on the planet, but the juxtaposition in this game between him and Brandon Clarke was hard to watch. Maye finished with a total of 16 rebounds, 13 of them defensive. Clarke finished with three total. The Zags don’t have a single player in the ranked within the top-500 of defensive rebounding percentage, a rather sordid state of affairs for a team supposedly going to the Final Four.
  7. At the beginning of the year, almost every single one of us predicted the Zags would lose three games in the regular season, and right now, they look roughly to be on that pace. As Steven mentioned in the recap yesterday, it just stings more because the of the Duke win.
  8. This non-conference slate was always going to be a gauntlet, and the injuries to Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall did nothing to help the situation. The defensive shortcomings, however, are not something that many of us expected, and it will be interesting to see going forward how the team responds to this new found issue. I don’t think the defensive shortcomings are something that will just be solved with the introduction of the two missing players. The return of Tillie and Crandall will help, obviously, but the Zags defensive shortcomings are a more, shall we say, institutional problem. This is a team-wide issue that needs a harsh look at.
  9. In Joe Lunardi’s bracketology post pre-North Carolina game, the Zags already were bumped down to a No. 2 seed. This loss doesn’t obviously help the No. 1 seed cause, but I don’t think that is necessarily out of play yet. There is still plenty of the season left, and Kansas, Virginia, and Duke can all have their fair share of slip-ups. Even if Nevada wins out, you can make a case for the Zags to get the No. 1 seed over the Wolf Pack. Gonzaga’s non-conference strength of schedule is No. 6 in the nation. Nevada’s best win on the year will be against Arizona State—that is it.
  10. I don’t know what this team does going forward other than breathe, regroup, and play the way they know they can play. Saint Mary’s and BYU both boast top 50 offenses. At the beginning of the year, I thought another undefeated run through conference play was on the table. After the defensive effort in the last three games, I highly doubt that at the moment. I would love for the Zags to prove me wrong.