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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s (2012) win over West Virginia

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The boys from the WCC showed the Mountaineers what tough basketball looks like.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - West Virginia v Gonzaga Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

It’s hard to believe this game “only” took place eight years ago. It feels several lifetimes away, and in the evolution of basketball and Gonzaga’s program even more distant than that. What remains familiar, however, is Gonzaga’s success in the tournament. Yes, this Gonzaga squad was eliminated in the next round by No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes (gross) who were led by Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger. That was a tight game decided by two or three plays in the closing minutes. But the following year’s team achieved the first No. 1 ranking for Gonzaga, and the freshman in this game (Pangos and Bell) made it to an Elite 8 by their senior year in 2015. Gonzaga has made it out of the first weekend in every tournament since that year.

  1. Folks, in case you had forgotten, Kevin Pangos had/has a lot of game. Even as a freshman, he had such a good feel for when to hunt his shot and when to facilitate. He pressed all the right buttons in this one.
  2. Gonzaga’s personnel in the first half of the decade dictated a much slower tempo than what we’ve become used to in the past few years. The pace wasn’t glacial, by any means, and the Zags definitely looked to get into transition when they could, but it’s interesting to compare the style of play then and now.
  3. This squad could shoot the three-ball and spread the floor well, but the increased versatility and skill level of the bigs over the last few years has opened up the offense for Gonzaga and allowed it to consistently reach the upper tier of elite offenses. With that said, I still appreciated watching two bruisers in Rob Sacre and Deniz Kilicli battling in the post.
  4. Gonzaga’s half court offense at the time wasn’t quite as effective at creating easy shots as it is today. I don’t think Few had quite perfected implementing and teaching the ball screen offense.
  5. I lost track of how many times the Zags had an open shot on the perimeter. Pangos, David Stockton, and Gary Bell Jr. feasted. For a Bub Huggins coached squad, this West Virginia team played really bad defense that failed to make the Zags work hard for their buckets.
  6. No offense to him, but I can’t believe Guy Landry Edi started for this team. Mark Few tried to piece together legitimate production out of that spot by using a three-headed combo of Edi, Mike Hart, and Mathis Monninghoff. Have mercy.
  7. I can’t believe how baggy shorts were still during this time. I’m glad that died off in the last few years.
  8. I completely forgot Ryan Spangler made some cameos on this team. 2011-12 was Spangler’s sole season in Spokane before transferring to Oklahoma where he would eventually play alongside Buddy Hield during his Wooden Award-winning campaign in 2016. College basketball careers are wild.
  9. Gonzaga’s backcourt got real small when Pangos and David Stockton played together. It’s kind of amazing that did not get exploited more defensively.
  10. There’s really no greater satisfaction than silencing a hostile crowd. This game was played 2200 miles from Spokane, and just 75 miles from Morgantown. It didn’t matter.