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Gonzaga Mailbag Part Two

Some more questions and answers for y’all.

Denver v Gonzaga Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

We had so many questions the first time around, we had to split it up into portion-sized chunks. Hope you had a great holiday everyone, here is the second half of the our mailbag.

At what point will coach Few start Jones over Kispert to get better defensive results? Cause at this point, Kispert isn’t contributing enough on the offensive end to make up for his poor defense. Jones can score similarly but defend way better.

AD: He doesn’t. Despite starting Jones in the 2nd half against UTA, Kispert has a larger upside and Few seems to love him. Remember at the beginning of last season, Kispert started over Rui and Norvell. Another problem is Jones tweener status, doesn’t have the handles nor outside shot to play guard and lacks the size for consisten frontcourt play.

SK: Jones won’t be starting. He’s also not as good offensively as Kispert. Jones has settled into the perfect 10-12 minute role player who won’t make mistakes.

AC: I don’t see that happening. Jones would be a bit too much of a liability on the offensive end. I think his role right now suits him perfectly.

PW: It is true, Kispert’s defensive rating is the worst on the squad of all the starters. But his offensive contributions offset that at the moment. Kispert has taken, and made, more three pointers than Josh Perkins this season. He doesn’t turn the ball over and already plays a glue guy like role. Although Jones is a better defender, Kispert’s issues on defense aren’t the sole issue happening right now--the team defense is a team issue. Putting Jones in hampers the greatest strength of this squad, its offense, without benefiting the defense enough.

How much will Tillie coming back really fix things, particularly defense? Obviously we’ll be better with more depth, and Tillie is really good, but does Tillie returning just fortify our current strengths, or actually solve some woes?

AD: Regardless of how quickly both Tillie and Crandall return to form, reducing minutes for the others will have a huge impact on the team. Defense will get better with decreasing minutes and stronger finishes on the offensive end because legs will be fresher (Tennessee). We all love Petrusev, but Larsen would have really helped with defense in the paint and rebounding woes. Also, keep in mind GU has been playing against the Nation’s best teams. Defensive metrics improve dramatically during WCC play.

SK: Tillie will help, but I think Geno Crandall will help more. Their two biggest weaknesses, besides fatigue, have been stopping perimeter drives and communication. Crandall is their best on-ball defender. He had the second best defensive rating on the team before he got injured. He’s also become a vocal leader, which will help with communication. Tillie’s defensive rating of 91.7 last season would be tops on the team this season. The combination of both will help greatly. It will also allow players to defend more aggressively knowing they have depth behind them, and they may not be forced to switch as much as they have recently.

AC: Tillie helps a lot. These last couple games for Gonzaga have been a struggle on the defensive end and Killian will be part of the solution. His 6’10, 220 pound frame and long wingspan will help drastically with defense in the paint/on the perimeter as well as with securing offensive boards (another recent issue for the Zags). His leadership on the court will also help with miscommunications.

PW: Tillie definitely fortifies our biggest strength, being our top-ranked offense. He also should help the defense in a variety of fashions, specifically defense and rebounding. Tillie’s DR% last season is only a tad higher than Brandon Clarke’s and Rui Hachimura’s this season, but Tillie was competing with Johnathan Williams, a phenomenal rebounder in his own right, for those defensive boards. Defensive rebounding will be one immediate plus of Tillie’s return, and it is one of Gonzaga’s huge holes at the moment.

After Tillie (I assume) is given a few games to get back in the swing of things off the bench. Do you see us starting 3 forwards and two guards, with Kispert going to bench? And Rui starting at his natural position of SF.

AD: Yep, Tille and Clarke playing the high/low will be terrifying for opponents and a couple of Tillie threes open up the paint for Clarke as well as Rui and Norvell drives. It will be interesting to see how the substitution patterns work with Kispert, Crandall, JJ and Petrusev.

SK: No. I thought this before the year, and it hasn’t changed based on what I’ve watched. Few wants to use an 8-man rotation similar to their Final Four team with four guards and four bigs. I would not be shocked if Tillie came off the bench the whole season and played the role of Zach Collins. Filip Petrusev plays the role of Tillie (8-10 minutes) and Rui and Clarke continue to start. Whoever is playing the best that night is who they roll with. They will rotate their four guards at the 1-3 spots, with Jones playing 9th-man minutes at the “3”. Rui, Clarke, and Tillie won’t play a ton of minutes together unless the match-up dictates it (like SMC did last year). Rui has played the “3” for a grand total of two minutes this season. You may see the lineup in spots, but don’t expect it consistently.

AC: Yes. Perkins, Norvell, Rui at the 3, Clarke at the 4, Tillie at the 5. I believe Kispert has really gained a lot of composure and confidence from all the starts he has had this season. That will translate to his new role and he will thrive being one of the first to come off the bench for Gonzaga. Rui will also be more comfortable at the 3.

PW: Nope, simply because Rui’s natural position is not the wing. Rui hasn’t even developed his offensive potential into a stretch four consistently yet. He has only attempted 18 threes on the season, and so far, on defense, has shown himself much more comfortable in the post than isolated man-to-man on the wing. And remember the three-headed hydra of Kyle Wiltjer, Sabonis, and Karnowski? Me either, because it didn’t work. If anything, out of Clarke, Hachimura, and Tillie, Tillie is your best option at the three, and that is forcing him into the position. Tillie is going to take some time to work his way back into the lineup. When fully healthy, I think you will see some starting-five fluidity from Mark Few, not a bad option to have.

What would be the most likely scenario that another WCC team makes it into March Madness with an at-large bid?

AD: San Francisco, LMU or San Diego need to establish conference dominance losing three or less games with a victory over the Zags. If any of the three mentioned teams wins 25+ games coupled with a Zag win (we play at LMU and San Diego in Feb), it may be enough. Especially if GU has climbed back in the Top 5 because of attrition.

SK: BYU and SMC are toast. USF needs a win over Gonzaga and no more than two non-Gonzaga WCC losses to have a chance. Otherwise, no team is realistically getting an at-large birth. LMU and USD have a combined one top 100 victory. Nice stories and solid teams, but not NCAA at-large worthy.

AC: Joe Lunardi has San Francisco as an #11 seed playing in the First Four in his recent bracketology post and I couldn’t agree more. In order for them to stay there, USF would have to finish with only two losses to teams in the top half of the WCC and get one win over Gonzaga. Any bad loss to a Santa Clara, Portland, Pacific, or Pepperdine, I don’t see an at-large bid happening. Very minimal room for error for the Dons. That #21 Buffalo loss would have really helped their chances more and it hurts that they ended up cancelling the Arizona State game due to poor air quality in the Bay Area.

PW: It is unfortunate that this is the year that Saint Mary’s finally decided to try and schedule some decent non-conference opponents, because, at the moment, they have no chance of an at-large bid. Likewise, BYU doesn’t have a good win to its name at the moment outside of Utah State. San Francisco has been a fun story to watch, but their non-conference SOS is absolute garbage. The WCC is up this year because the middle of the pack is better, but the middle of the pack is missing anything resembling a marquee win. Outside of any of those teams sweeping Gonzaga, which I don’t see happening in any universe, we are looking at another one-bid year. At least this year showcased some growth potential.