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NCAA Tournament 2019: A beginner’s guide to Gonzaga

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For the casual basketball fan in need of some information.

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

College basketball viewership tends to explode in March, go figure, as the NCAA Tournament begins and everyone starts to waste time at work madly filling in brackets and watching games between two teams they don’t really care about because THIS IS MARCH.

All of this means you have a lot of viewers who are just tuning into the Gonzaga Bulldogs for the first time. So for those uninitiated consumers of college basketball, consider this a quick primer on the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Who is the athletic guy who can jump high, block shots, and dunk hard?

That would be none other than junior forward Brandon Clarke, one of the best forwards in the nation not named Zion Williamson. Clarke is averaging 16.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game this season, all the while shooting an absurd 69.3 percent from the floor. He currently has the third-most blocks in all of college, and his three blocks per game are the fourth-best mark. He has the third-best defense rating in college and his overall box plus/minus of 18.6 is the second-best mark in the nation.

How do you pronounce Gonzaga?

One would think this really wouldn’t be that hard, especially for national announcers who have grown accustomed to the Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament for the past 21 years. Still, to this day, people pronounce it incorrectly.

So let’s make this easy. Gonzaga is pronounced Gone-zag-uh, not gone-zogh-uh. Here is an even easier way to think about it: It is the Zags, not the Zogs.

Who is the Japanese player the announcers keep talking about?

That would be junior forward Rui Hachimura, who originally hails from Toyama, Japan. Rui is the case study for the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” His mother is of Japanese descent, and his father is Beninese. He is only the fifth Japanese born student to play college hoops at the Division I level. He leads the Zags in points per game (20.1) and is one of the finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award. He will most likely depart Gonzaga a year early for the NBA draft.

Rui has been a three year project at Gonzaga. During the Zags 2017 title run season, he only averaged 4.6 minutes per game, and much of his work on the court came off the court, learning how to master the English language. He has been unleashed this season and is the focal point of Gonzaga’s top-rated offense.

Why are the announcers talking about volleyball?

That is probably a reference to Killian Tillie, the junior forward from France. Tillie’s brother Kevin plays volleyball professionally, his father Laurent Tillie is the coach of the French national team, and his mother Caroline Keulen-Tillie is a former professional volleyball player from the Netherlands.

Who is the guy that is taking every shot possible?

That would most likely be sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr., aka Snacks, from Chicago, Illinois. Norvell is a fearless scorer, willing to throw his body and soul into every drive to the hoop. He also has never found a shot he didn’t like. His 11.3 field goal attempts per game are second on the team, and his seven three point attempts per game are first by a long shot. Norvell can be a streaky shooter, but he has never let an 0-for-6 first half stop him from shooting 6-for-7 in the second. Norvell has ice running through his veins and if the Zags are in a close contest, he will be the primary back court option trying to shoot his way out.

Isn’t Gonzaga super overrated?

Ah, the age old question. In previous years, maybe 10-15 years ago, it was a lot easier to make this case. There is no question that the Bulldogs are hampered by the national perception of playing in the WCC, and, therefore, not being tested day in and day out as if the Zags played in the ACC.

The fact of the matter remains that Gonzaga is statistically one of the top teams in the nation. The Selection Committee isn’t made up by a collection of idiots who pay attention to just the AP poll. Gonzaga has the top-ranked offense and a top 20 defense. The concept that the Zags never win in March should’ve been shattered by four-consecutive Sweet 16s and a title appearance in the past four years, but low and behold, here we are, constantly regurgitating the same stupid argument that has bounced around college basketball for the past 21 years.

If at this point, you are still thinking to yourself that the Zags suck, go on right ahead, you can’t be saved. If you are open to changing your mind, you might be in for a treat, because Gonzaga is one of the most enjoyable teams to watch in college basketball this season.