When Anton Watson went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, there was an understandable cause for concern in the Gonzaga Bulldogs fanbase. The Gonzaga rotation wasn’t deep to begin with, and at that moment, it went from short to incredibly short.
Since then, the Zags haven’t skipped a beat, and in the process, have mostly demonstrated that any cause for concern, at least on the offensive end, is all for naught.
The Zags currently are the only school in the entire nation with seven players averaging over 10 points per game. It is a marvel to look at. Filip Petrusev leads the team with 17.2 points per game. After that, it is Corey Kispert at 13.8, Killian Tillie at 13, Admon Gilder at 11, Joel Ayayi at 10.7, and Ryan Woolridge and Drew Timme at 10.3.
One other school in the nation approaches the Zags in this level. Western Kentucky has six players averaging double-figures, but it’ll take some large games from Jordan Rawls to boost his 8.3 points to 10.
The Zags are, currently, for the second year running, the top offense in the nation. Part of that is because, on top of the overall consistency, any given of those seven players are liable to go off. Petrusev’s season-high is 31 points, Kispert’s is 28, Tillie’s and Gilder’s is 22, Woolridge’s and Ayayi’s is 21, and Timme’s is 20.
What this adds up to is a team with a KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency of 121.0. Now, Ken Pomeroy has said it is rather pointless to compare season stats from team’s across years. So let’s look at it in a different way. This year, the Zags are 1.3 points higher than the No. 2 team, the Dayton Flyers, and 2.3 points higher than the No. 3 team, the Iowa Hawkeyes. Last year, the Zags were 1.1 points higher than Virginia, the No. 2 team, and 1.8 points higher than Tennessee, the No. 3 team. In a game of decimals, every little bit matters.
Making the most out of limited supply is sort of the Gonzaga way. Head coach Mark Few has always operated with a traditional slim rotation, whether that is out of necessity or choice. This season, the Zags bench is only garnering 26 percent of the total minutes (including all those garbage time appearances), good for the 285th lowest mark in the nation.
However, funnily enough, that isn’t even the lowest mark for Gonzaga in the past five years. Last season, with a similarly small seven-rotation (for most of the season), the bench only accounted for 23.4 percent of the total minutes. In 2016, the bench only garnered 22.6 of the minutes.
Injury concerns, especially considering Tillie’s history, are always going to exist. They existed before the start of this season. None of that has changed. When the most desperate times call for desperate measures, Martynas Arlauskas and Pavel Zakharov are available, if nothing else for five fouls to give.
However, as we have seen throughout this season, when someone needs to step it up, one of the seven major Gonzaga players does. The Zags’ defense isn’t going to win any championships this year. This is not 2017. However, the offense very well could, especially if the defense can hold up just enough. In a more wild and unpredictable year of college basketball, that might be all it takes to make the deepest run in March.