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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s Exhibition Victory

This is going to be a fun season.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Portland Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Friday evening got off to a rocky start with the shocking news just before tip-off that freshman guard Brock Ravet was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team with the support of Mark Few and the coaching staff. Basketball should always take the backseat to personal matters, so here’s hoping the best for Ravet and a happy return when he’s ready! Now, to the on-court action:

  1. Filip Petrusev looks much more assertive at both ends of the floor. I was particularly impressed with how engaged he was on defense, aggressively jumping out on the perimeter on switches and continuously communicating and directing traffic even after taking a 50+ point lead. That’s a good sign that he’s embracing the responsibilities placed on him by the coaching staff in his sophomore campaign.
  2. As advertised, Drew Timme looked comfortable handling the ball and was very proficient at finishing with either hand around the basket. He gets a good seal when posting up, and is adept at creating the proper angles in the paint for receiving entry passes that allow him to go right into his move. Clearly a well-coached and intelligent player.
  3. Ryan Woolridge has easy speed in transition and is a really smooth athlete. He got a late start to practicing with the team over the summer as he recovered from a stress fracture, but he looked comfortable handling the reins of the offense and should continue to get better as the weeks roll by.
  4. The physical profile of this team leads me to believe its defensive ceiling is very, very high. There are athletic and versatile athletes up and down the roster with quick hands, quick feet, and quick minds. Expect this team to force a lot of turnovers throughout the year.
  5. Anton Watson took over Rui Hachimura’s spot at the tip of the ¾ court trap and immediately caused a lot of problems for Lewis & Clark who had difficulty just getting the ball across the timeline. Being able to execute (and flourish in) the defensive scheme right away will ensure that Watson gets a lot of minutes from the coaching staff. He put up a very casual but monster night in terms of production, and the scary thought is he has a lot of room to get better.
  6. I’m really excited about the backcourt trio of Woolridge, Gilder, and Ayayi. They all complement each other and can comfortably play together in any combination. I’m not at all concerned about the backcourt provided they stay healthy.
  7. Gonzaga hit the 50-point mark with seven minutes to go in the first half. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, that’s extremely impressive, particularly when you look at some other P5 programs that struggled in their exhibitions (looking at you Arizona). The Bulldogs can score quickly and in a lot of different ways with a lot of different players.
  8. The Zags didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the three-point line and still scored 116 points. That is remarkable.
  9. So soothing to once again be blessed with the dulcet tones of Greg Heister’s voice.
  10. These are the types of plays you see from Joel Ayayi that make you excited about what he could be: