The first 20 minutes of Gonzaga’s hard-fought win over West Virginia on December 2 made clear who is the most vital piece of the GU offense. No, it’s not the wunderkind freshman Jalen Suggs, whose injury may have actually stopped my heart momentarily. Suggs is vital, and his talent cannot be replicated, but Gonzaga has insurance policies at his position. Instead, the struggles of the first half revealed that for Gonzaga’s offense to soar at its highest peak it needs to ride the thermals of Drew Timme.
During his preseason media rounds, Mark Few made no effort to temper enthusiasm or expectations for Timme’s sophomore campaign. “He’s primed for a big year,” said Few in an interview with Jon Rothstein. If the first three games are anything to go by, Few may have actually undersold Timme.
Timme is 4th in KenPom’s Player of the Year rankings at the time of this writing, and he’ll get a crack at No. 1, Luke Garza, on December 19 after the Zags emerge from their COVID pause to take on Iowa. Garza is a good benchmark for Timme, and the fact that we’re even discussing comparisons between them at this point is testament to how well Timme is playing. Garza, after all, is back for his senior campaign after earning Player of the Year honors as a junior from a host of outlets such as The Sporting News, The Athletic, ESPN, and Bleacher Report along with the Big 10’s POTY award. Garza has picked up right where he left off with double-doubles in three of Iowa’s first four games, including 41 and 35 point outings.
If you look at Timme’s numbers, it’s obvious he’s playing at an elite level too. He leads Gonzaga in scoring (23.3 ppg) and field goal attempts (48), is second on the team in field goal percentage (60.4%) by .1 percent, and is second in rebounds (6.3 rpg).
It’s not just that he’s racking up the counting numbers, however, as the eye ball test affirms his value to the Bulldogs. The rest of the offense is working beautifully off of Timme and playing easy read and react basketball based on how defenses are playing him. Because the Texan’s skillset is so advanced, and his basketball IQ so sophisticated, Gonzaga’s offense is able to flow freely when he is playing at his best as he did against Kansas and Auburn.
While Timme is the focal point and central hub of the offense, the fact he is a threat from anywhere on the floor is what makes Gonzaga’s offense so difficult to scheme against. He can catch the ball anywhere and beat his man off the dribble, hit a jumper, play a two man game on the perimeter with a wing, and of course finish on either side of the block and anywhere in the paint.
Drew Timme scores every game off fake DHO drives and rim runs after made baskets. The growth in his versatility has been impressive. pic.twitter.com/VsOduLoizG— Steven Karr (@SKarrG0) December 9, 2020
West Virginia’s interior presented Timme’s first difficult challenge of the season. It was no coincidence then that as Timme struggled to get going, the Zags limped to a 34-point half and did not resemble the offensive juggernaut that dominated Kansas and Auburn. While Timme found no joy in the first half, his response over the final 20 minutes showed he has the mental fortitude to take Gonzaga across the finish line in early April and affirmed that he is worthy of the recognition he is receiving. The Zags bounced back to score 53 points in the second half against one of the best defenses they’ll see all year.
Drew Timme has gotta be one of the top bigs in the country. Great IQ, high energy, and very skilled— Brandon Clarke (@brandonclarke23) November 27, 2020
After Gonzaga completed its two-game romp in Fort Myers, Timme stepped up to the camera set up for him to do a post-game Zoom session with the media and commented to someone off-screen “I look good though, right”? The answer to his question is yes, and he’s making sure Gonzaga looks good too.