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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over LMU

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24-0!

NCAA Basketball: Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

They did it! In the midst of a pandemic, having to manufacture their own energy while playing in front of empty gyms while adjusting to ever-changing circumstances and COVID protocols, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were the best team in the regular season and the only group to make it through the season unbeaten. They did it by playing together and for each other, and by doing so have put themselves in a position to be remembered as one of the all time teams. But the job’s not done.

  1. It may have been Senior Night and the completion of a perfect 24-0 regular season, but the Zags eschewed the usual pageantry of the evening. There were no post-game comments to the (sparse) crowd and no cutting of the nets—a choice made by the team. This group is all business and is focused on achieving its only goal for the season of cutting down the nets after the final game of the season.
  2. Jalen Suggs opened his collegiate scoring account with an alley-oop dunk and opened the final regular season game of his collegiate career (don’t say we don’t know that yet) with an alley-oop dunk. I appreciate that symmetry.
  3. I thoroughly enjoyed the battle in the blocks between Timme and LMU’s Mattias Markusson. Basketball has moved to a faster, smaller, and more wide open style of play but it’s still fun to watch a classic big man battle.
  4. Gonzaga’s defensive rotations this week have just looked a little ragged. Based on just my viewing during the game, and not having watched any part of the two games played this week again, it feels like there was a bit too much freelancing that crept in over extended portions of game action. Something to clean up over the next week before tournament play.
  5. Joel Ayayi off-ball movement appreciation comment. He should seriously open a school to teach this skill. Let’s not discuss how he managed to go through the whole game without grabbing a single rebound. That baffles me.
  6. There were a lot of really bad turnovers in this game from Gonzaga as a result of trying to do way too much. The Zags have been good with their ball movement and security for much of the season, so I’m just going to chalk it up to trying to do something special for Senior Night with their families in the building after a year of playing in mostly empty gyms.
  7. Jalen Suggs’ defensive aggression gave LMU fits during this game. He’s definitely made strides over the last few weeks in learning when and how to attack on that end of the floor to make himself more of a multidimensional disruptor without compromising the overall team defense.
  8. It’s completely absurd to be upset with the Zags whenever they don’t have a blowout going in the first five minutes of the game. I realize that for whatever nonsensical reason, Gonzaga still has to fight this perception that because they don’t play in a power conference they have to destroy every WCC team for 40 minutes every game. It’s a completely unrealistic and unreasonable expectation.
  9. Hat’s off to LMU Head Coach Stan Johnson for the work he’s done with the Lions in his first year. He has that team playing hard and headed in the right direction. I think he’ll be good there and hopefully they can build some momentum for the program.
  10. It wasn’t the final home game I would have wished for Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs, Aaron Cook (unless he decides to use that free year of eligibility), and perhaps Timme and Ayayi, but it’s the one they got and they made the most of it. I’m gutted for Suggs and Cook that they never had the experience of playing in front of a rabid Kennel crowd. I feel even worse for Kispert. It’s hard to believe that was his last game in a building where he has made a slew of plays over the last four years and written his name amongst the best that have played for Gonzaga. He has had a wildly successful career by any measure and has embodied everything it means to be a Zag in his four years. It feels so wrong that he didn’t get to sign off in front of a full house. Salute to a great Zag.