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Gonzaga’s offense is only getting better

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The Zags already own the top offense in the nation.

NCAA Basketball: Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

For the better part of the year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have owned the top offense according to Ken Pomeroy. Now that Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall are back, and the Zags are fully healthy, that top offense is only going to get better.

To put it all into context, the Zags have an adjusted offense efficiency (AdjO) of 125.3, according to KenPom. The No. 2 team, Tennessee, owns a 122.4 mark. The AdjO essentially means that if the Zags played a game with 100 possessions, they would score 125.3 points.

If you look at the roster, that makes sense. The Zags have four players scoring in double-digit points, led by Rui Hachimura’s 20.1 points per game. That number will inevitably increase to five players after Tillie, arguably the most versatile scorer on the squad, gets his sea legs and sees offensive focus.

Right now, according to Synergy Sports, the Zags are the team that scores that most consistently. The Zags score at least one point in a possession 49.5 percent of the time, the top mark in the league. Tennessee, the No. 2 offense in the nation, is second at 48.1 percent. Duke, the No. 4 offense according to KenPom, is No. 10 at 46.3 percent.

Gonzaga owns the second-best eFG% in the nation at 59.3 percent. The Creighton Bluejays, at 59.6 percent, currently own the top mark. Historically, Gonzaga has owned that “Guard U” moniker, and although Josh Perkins, Corey Kispert, Zach Norvell, and Geno Crandall all can ball, the true bread and butter of this program is the front court.

The Zags are the top shooting team from inside the three-point line: 62.1 percent, a full two percentage points higher than the No. 2 team, Dayton. The Zags play smart ball near the hoop. Their shots are blocked at the third-lowest rate in college. When running a half-court set, the Zags have the highest points per possession in the country, according to Synergy Sports, at 1.05.

The return of Tillie and Crandall helps the areas of the offense that could use a bit of bolstering—three-point shooting and offensive rebounding. The Zags are pretty good at both of these aspects, but are hardly an elite-level squad. Considering the slight shortcomings of the defense this year, if Gonzaga is making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, it will be on the back of an offense no one can stop. Improving the three-point shooting and rebounding is essential for this progress.

Crandall’s shooting percentages have left plenty to leave desired, but we have to remember that he is a career 35.6 percent shooter from long range. Last season, Crandall shot 41 percent from afar. So far this year, he is just shooting 19 percent. That number, theoretically, should hopefully get back on track.

Tillie, meanwhile, was the best three-point shooter on the team last year, largely thanks to the torrid streak in the WCC Tournament. Tillie is a career 46.2 percent three-point shooter. This year, he is hitting just one-third of his shots from long range. As the offense goes, Tillie is a constant threat and helps stretch the floor, allowing the rest of the players to operate more efficiently near the hoop—where Gonzaga already excels at scoring.

Tillie will also help shore the Zags up on offensive rebounding a bit. Although Clarke is a solid offensive rebounder, his main partner down low, Hachimura, is not at all. Rui’s offensive style doesn’t lend itself to a lot of help off the offensive glass. Despite playing just 18.4 minutes per game through five contests (compared to Rui’s 29.9), Tillie is pulling down 1.8 offensive rebounds per game, while Rui is at 1.4.

It will be hard to measure this progress against the competition in the WCC. Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, and San Diego all own top-100 defenses (and LMU is right at the heels at 101), but, outside of San Fran, no WCC squad is up to the NCAA Tournament-caliber defense the Zags would see in March.

And since the Zags are already No. 1 in offense, it is hard to gauge how much better they are getting since they can’t climb up anymore. It’ll be eye-tests abound, but with the return of Tillie and Crandall, things are just starting to look up.