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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Portland


NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Portland Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
  1. On Brandon Clarke’s first bucket of the game, he only needed a single hop to back his way deep into the post and finish for an easy lay-in after collecting an offensive rebound. On his next post-up he easily established position inside the restricted circle. It was a comically bad sequence for Portland’s interior “defense.”
  2. I’m thrilled to see Corey Kispert playing confidently and stringing together a pair of strong offensive games after four consecutive games of single-digit scoring beforehand. His slashing ability and outside shooting forces defenses to stay honest and creates so much space inside for Rui and Clarke (who don’t need much room to begin with).
  3. We haven’t seen Gonzaga’s 34 court press force many turnovers lately, as its primarily intended to speed up opposing offenses, but leave it to Portland to buck that trend with some sloppy passing.
  4. How is it that Josh Perkins still does not feel comfortable finishing layups with his left hand?
  5. The Tillie-Clarke-Rui lineup is getting worked into the rotation and could work really well against zones. The Zags really don’t need to run any ball screens with that lineup on the floor because Tillie (a one-man zone buster) can just park at the high post or at the top of the 3-point line and pick apart opposing defenses.
  6. With a full strength squad, there’s absolutely no reason for Norvell to ever feel the need to force a shot on the offensive end. I know he’s always going to have a little bit of gunner in his game, and that’s makes his hot stretches really fun, but with the talent and depth on hand the Zags should be able to get a quality shot on every single possession against WCC teams.
  7. It was neat to have Zach Collins in attendance and watching the rest of his recruiting classmates make up the core of another potential Final Four squad for Gonzaga. I know that Duke and Kentucky routinely have loaded recruiting classes, but Gonzaga’s 2016 class of Collins, Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell, and Killian Tillie is just mind-blowing to think about.
  8. Portland opted to play its 2-3 zone pretty low and compact to deal with Rui and Clarke in the paint. I only recall the Zags getting the ball to the short corner against the zone once or twice in the entire game, and with 31 attempts from the arc, it’s clear the offense was content to settle in from the perimeter and fire away from long distance. That’s not ideal, but is fine against lesser teams like the Pilots. However, Gonzaga has not been an elite shooting team from the arc this season, and definitely shouldn’t fall in love with the 3-ball.
  9. Matthew Lang picking up a three-point play off a put-back in front of his hometown crowd was fun and produced the moment captured in the cover photo above.
  10. It wasn’t the best offensive performance of the season by any means, but having seven players score in double figures is a pretty impressive feat. Consider that in the Duke-Virginia game played earlier in the evening, RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson were the only guys to reach double figures for the Blue Devils; and, until Marques Bolden made a pair of free throws in the final seconds, only four Dukies had scored in the entire game. There are very few programs that can field an 8-man rotation with the depth and talent like Gonzaga’s.