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3-on-3: Back on top

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Quick note: This week’s 3-on-3 was held earlier in the week, but was posted later after the game against USF was rescheduled.

Keith: Gonzaga’s back at the top of the AP Poll after Baylor had a week to forget with a pair of losses at home. Deserved or do Auburn fans have a legitimate gripe about missing out on their program’s first #1 ranking?

Peter: I think it all just depends on how you look at the AP Poll. There is one voter who specifically has his vote lined up exactly with the KenPom Top 25. Other voters look at it like a power ranking, more of a week-to-week basis, and other voters do the whole season thing. Auburn definitely deserves some No. 1 consideration, and they got it cause of all the first-place votes they received, but let’s be honest: Everyone knows how the AP Poll works. You win games, you move up. You lose games, you drop down.

Auburn’s last two opponents: Alabama (KenPom #17) and Mississippi (KenPom #104). They won by four points and nine points.

Gonzaga’s last two opponents: BYU (#21) and Santa Clara (#86). Zags won by 36 and 32.

So sure, they deserve some No. 1 consideration. Do they deserve to jump over the Zags for No. 1? No.

KY: But Alabama beat Gonzaga! Transitive hypothetical sports arguments and all of that...

Tuck: The three teams playing the best basketball right now appear to be Auburn, Arizona and Gonzaga, so I don’t really have a problem with whichever way you order the three of them. I totally understand the Tigers’ gripe, considering that they’re a team that’s only lost one game—in double overtime—to a UConn team that is nationally ranked. I do think it’s kind of hilarious to see how unmoved Gonzaga fans have been from this ranking. Just a few years back we had a celebratory cake and t-shirts being made for the occasion. Now it’s indignation at how another fanbase could care so much. A wonder what staying at the top does to you. And I bet you that Alabama wishes JD Davison’s three-point shooting in Seattle carried some transitive properties!

KY: I actually think Auburn fans have a right to be annoyed. This could have been their week to have their giant #1 cake and t-shirts to honor the occasion. They’ll look at Alabama’s win over Gonzaga in a not-so-neutral environment as reason enough that they should be ahead, plus their only loss being to UConn, and the fact that they play in the SEC rather than the conference of the sisters of the poor. HOWEVA, it would have also been completely against the nature of the AP Poll for them to leap past Gonzaga who was sitting at #2 and spent the week blowing the doors off any defense they encountered.

PW: I feel for them because it does feel like a slight, Gonzaga is probably overrated and hasn’t beaten anyone, and Auburn has played a much tougher schedule. But we all know the AP Poll is nonsense. It took us Gonzaga fans years of griping about it to come to this conclusion.

KY: I understand how this poll yielded this result, but I do think Auburn should be #1 this week if we’re looking at it from an equity standpoint.

TC: Luckily for the War Damn Eagles their ranking next week is completely in their control. Beating Kentucky on Saturday puts them in first no matter how otherworldly Gonzaga’s offense may look against the Dons on Thursday.

PW: Exactly. And then if they lose, they don’t have to worry about pulling a Purdue. Honestly, Auburn fans should be considering it a gift.

KY: If they beat Kentucky and climb to #1, that just means they’re going to lose to Mizzou next week.

We’ve referenced it, but let’s move this topic front and center. The Zags have been one of the top offensive teams in the country for several years now. But this latest surge at the start of WCC play has seen them average 114 ppg (a truly, truly absurd number) which is a level even they have not reached before. Can they keep this going?

TC: Can they keep it going? Yes. Will WCC coaches continue to think playing at Gonzaga’s pace is a fruitful venture? For their sakes, hopefully not!

PW: At a BYU level, I wish.

KY: For my sake, hopefully yes.

PW: Realistically, one of the big differences in the past three games in the offense was the three-point shot. Against BYU - 52.4 (season-best), Santa Clara - 46.2 (third-best), and Pepperdine - 40.0 (sixth-best). The Zags are always going to get their buckets close to the hoop, so in any game in which the dudes are hitting the three-pointers, it is basically free money. Now, does three games make a trend? Maybe. I don’t think Andrew Nembhard is going to shoot 4-for-6 from long range every night, but the Zags’ three-point shooting percentage has slowly been creeping up as of late and is now a completely respectable 36.8 percent, good for 45th in the country.

TC: I understand why Pepperdine and BYU did it to some extent. The Waves can only play at that style and when you know you’re running into a buzzsaw you may as well go down the way you like to play. The Cougars could not allow the Zags to settle on backdowns for 40 minutes because they were able to catch that Zags and Longhorns game earlier in the season. But Herb Sendek and Santa Clara, good golly. Try to control the pace!

KY: San Diego, Saint Mary’s and Pacific play at an abysmal tempo, so the scoring binge will almost certainly not continue when those teams show up to play. There just won’t be enough possessions for the Zags to hit triple digits unless everyone on the team is shooting at Drew Timme’s field goal percentage. But if Gonzaga’s long distance shooting can stay at this level and the Zags are able, or inclined, to turn the screws on defense with pressure to generate more transition opportunities, we should at least be able to avoid seeing miserable slog fests in the 60-point range.

PW: Santa Clara and Pepperdine combined for the two highest-tempo’d games in the last 20 years. I wish we could watch that every night but then we wouldn’t have a team to field come March.

TC: Nembhard has been a 50% shooter from outside since the Texas Tech tipoff. I’m wondering at what point we see coaches stop telling their guys to sag off of him on the perimeter and going under on screens against him. He averaged 20.5 and 9 last week. Rasir Bolton is shooting 44% from three which is nearly 10% better than either season he spent with the Cyclones of Iowa State. It’s time to put to bed that you can slow the Zags by begging their guards to shoot.

PW: I’m fine with opposing coaches assuming it is the ticket to ride. Same with the “do not double-team Drew Timme” Mark Pope line of attack.

KY: That was quite the game plan. There are only 3-4 programs in the country that can get away with playing Timme straight up and BYU isn’t one of them.

TC: That would have been a horrible gameplan if they still had Richard Harward and Gavin Baxter, let alone a freshman in Traore and “college basketball’s swaggiest” player according to BYUTV, Caleb Lohner.

KY: Hilarious call out. The women played a surprise non-conference game recently when they agreed to a second game with Stanford, but this time in Palo Alto, after their originally scheduled WCC game was postponed due to a COVID pause. If the men’s team pulled a late scheduling audible like that, who would you like to see them play most (feasibility aside)?

PW: Honestly, probably Kentucky. The Zags haven’t played them since the Maui Invitational in 2002, and we are talking about one of the best programs in college in the past five years (Gonzaga) versus one of the best programs in every single sport every year according to their fanbase (Kentucky). Outside of the eyes and the Hollywood appeal, Kentucky is lengthy, athletic, stellar offensive squad, always a good defensive test, and nothing would make Twitter even less bearable than watching the GU/BBN tweeters going back and forth for the better part of a week. For the spectacle and senseless bragging rights, this game needs to happen. I’m also not saying Baylor specifically because I want to choose a game Gonzaga will win.

TC: There are two teams that I would like Gonzaga to play to test their style and offense but they’re also two teams that no Gonzaga fan wants to face for obvious reasons. Peter said one of them in the Bears, but the other one may hurt just as much. Give me the track meet that would come from playing Tommy Lloyd. It can’t hurt you if it’s in the regular season, right? Right!?

KY: Bring on Zona! Now that they’re Gonzaga South and Tommy Lloyd is down there with a heavy contingent of former Zag staffers, the two programs are essentially trying to steer clear of each other while Lloyd builds up the program. At least that was the thought when they mutually decided to scrap the non-conference game that had been previously agreed to. But Lloyd obviously has Arizona humming much earlier than anticipated as they’re in the Top 10 of the AP Poll now, and it would be interesting to see two teams playing each other running all the same actions. The build up to the game would be constant debating about who plays the Gonzaga way better. The OG squad or 2.0 down in the desert?

PW: I can only imagine that the Gonzaga fanbase would stomach losing to a Tommy Lloyd-led Arizona game perfectly reasonably if it happened.

TC: Tommy has them playing the same brand of basketball as the Zags. They’re 2nd in adjusted tempo and Gonzaga is 3rd according to KenPom. I can’t think of a better test for the guards than keeping pace and finding Mathurin and Kriisa on the three-point line. But I think what that game would highlight most of all is the importance of Andrew Nembhard. Lloyd’s squad just does not have a true point guard let alone one to the quality of the Canadian distributor.

KY: I’m just here to root for chaos.

TC: Now, the Bears game I want because I’d like to see how the coaching staff has tried to adapt to that aggressive defensive style. Aaaand after this week they at least look a little beatable.