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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s Elite 8 win over USC

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30-0, two to go.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-USC vs Gonzaga Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are back in the FINAL FOUR, and they’re definitely not done yet. Despite what we were led to believe by the national sports media complex, the USC Trojans did not present much of a challenge for the Zags. This has been such a fun team to watch all season long, and they delivered once again on Tuesday night. Because of that, we get the chance to watch them again in a few days. Let’s enjoy these last few days with this group!

  1. The talk entering this game was how Gonzaga was going to handle USC’s defense. The Zags flipped that narrative on its head on the very first possession and never looked back while racing past USC. USC Head Coach Andy Enfield mentioned on Monday that he hadn’t watched too much tape on Gonzaga yet when asked how the Zags stacked up against USC’s other opponents. He must have never gotten around to watching the film as the Trojans missed the memo that under no circumstances can you turn the ball over and give Gonzaga transition opportunities. That gets you on the express train home.
  2. Do we think Drew Timme took the pre-game chatter personally? That might have been the fastest I’ve ever seen the doubters silenced. As for Timme, we’ve always known he was a DOG. The rest of the country just found out too.
  3. Gonzaga didn’t shy away from throwing the ball inside and going to work against USC’s lengthy interior. Despite the difficulties presented by the Mobley brothers while they patrol the paint, the Zags were committed to staying true to who they are and were confident they could solve the riddle posed by the USC D. The ability to impose their will against any opponent is what has set the Zags apart all season.
  4. The Mobley brothers were always going to be a handful to defend, but I liked Gonzaga’s plan to double them on the pass to at least disrupt the flow of USC’s offense. It didn’t always work, and the Mobleys got their points, but it allowed the Zags to continue switching on the perimeter to take away USC’s shooting and penetration without being too concerned about which guard was getting stuck on a Mobley since help was going to come anyway. If they scored, they scored, but the Zags needed to ensure that the rest of the Trojans were non-factors, and they succeeded. Tahj Eaddy, Isaiah White, and Ethan Anderson combined for 13 points on 7-19 shooting.
  5. Nice tactical move from Gonzaga’s coaching staff to mix in Jalen Suggs at the high post when USC went to the zone. He’s a major threat in that position due to his explosive finishing at the rim, ability to pull up short for a floater thanks to his soft touch, and his excellent vision and passing ability. With Suggs, Timme, and Ayayi all working adeptly in and around that space, the Trojans didn’t stay in the zone for too many consecutive possessions as it failed to work with the same efficacy as it did against Oregon.
  6. I have really enjoyed Anton Watson’s work in this tournament, particularly at the defensive end. He has been quietly erasing guys over the last four games, and has been an exemplar of excelling in your role.
  7. Despite being the smaller team, the Zags played much bigger than their roster bios indicate en route to winning the rebounding battle 41 to 29. Winning position on the blocks was clearly a point of emphasis, and they were definitely the more physical team which allowed them to control the glass and ultimately the game.
  8. Imagine how ugly this game would have been for USC if Corey Kispert was firing on all cylinders (as much as scoring 18 points can be considered a subpar performance) and the Zags converted the gaggle of layups they usually make. This is nitpicking, of course, but it feels like the Trojans dodged a truly embarrassing result.
  9. While we’re being nitpicky, the offensive execution in the second half was gross, to put it kindly. Part of that is USC cleaning up its defense, but most of it was the Zags taking their foot off the gas a bit and coasting to the finish line. On the bright side, Gonzaga was in a position where it could afford to do that.
  10. Sending positive vibes and best wishes to referee Bert Smith. That was a scary moment at the start of the game. Hopefully all is well and he is in good health.