If you had waded into the mentions of this blog’s Twitter account last night, you probably would’ve thought the Zags were just boat raced by Texas in March.
Of course, it was just the third game of the season, which allows us to say the two following things that can be true at the same time: 1) Gonzaga clearly has issues; 2) They have plenty of time to figure it out.
There are a lot of reasons for conference realignment, but last night, combined with tomorrow, combined with the upcoming holiday tournament, is one we don’t think about that often.
Let’s take a look at Texas’ first five opponents of the season, with their KenPom rankings:
- UTEP, 166
- Houston Christian, 320
- Gonzaga, 4
- Northern Arizona, 251
- UT Rio Grande Valley, 333
Let’s look at Kentucky’s:
- Howard, 270
- Duquesne, 120
- Michigan State, 19
- South Carolina State, 347
- Gonzaga, 4
We won’t use Michigan State in this example because they are essentially scheduled like Gonzaga, but the point of the matter is that the Zags don’t have the luxury of working out kinks in the non-conference. Rather, they need to hit the ground running, rack up those quality wins, and hope that buoys them enough to survive the downward pull of the WCC.
All of this, of course, does not discount that the Zags are facing some very real issues that have been exposed by some very good teams. Guard play needs to step up, the defense looks lost (to put it politely) at times, and the transition offense—the bread and butter of every GU team for the past decade—has been non-existent.
Playing the likes of North Florida, or future opponents such as Northern Illinois and Montana, those issues can get glossed over a bit. Against a team like Texas, those issues get exploited, and box scores like last night are the result.
The issue is where do we go from here? Back to Spokane to face Kentucky, which, yay! Again, because of the conference situation, the Zags don’t have the luxury of working out these kinks on anything less than a national stage.
Until then, we can only cross our fingers and hope that the Zags can lower that turnover percentage, currently ranked No. 292 in the country (eesh), up that effective field goal percentage, currently only ranked No. 40 in the county, and overall improve the defense so that Texas doesn’t have the opportunity to shoot 12 unguarded jump shots in a game.
We’ve been spoiled in Gonzaga-land as of late. This team has largely been so good that losses like last night have luckily been few and far between. Let’s hope that continues. There is still plenty of the season left for this talented team to turn it around.