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Drew Timme was built for March

Another massive March performance is his new norm.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round - Memphis vs. Gonzaga Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs didn’t come back onto the court after halftime in their game against the Memphis Tigers until there were roughly two minutes remaining before the start of the second half. Being down by 10 points in a game in which the opponent has essentially dictated all aspects of play tends to do that to a team.

Gonzaga needed to come out strong or they were at risk of falling potentially into too deep of a hole to climb out. Drew Timme, the brash, mustachioed face of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, suddenly did what all of the college greats did: He elevated in March.

Over the course of roughly the first four minutes of the second half, Timme scored 11 consecutive points to help the Zags close a 10 point gap to three, and put Gonzaga immediately back in a game in which they had walked with their heads down just 20 minutes before.

  • 19:03: Drew Timme made Layup; Assisted by Andrew Nembhard
  • 18:13: Drew Timme made Three-Point Jumper; Assisted by Julian Strawther
  • 17:31: Drew Timme made Jumper; Assisted by Rasir Bolton
  • 16:45: Drew Timme made Jumper; Assisted by Julian Strawther
  • 15:53: Drew Timme made Jumper

Going into halftime, Timme, like everyone else on Gonzaga, was struggling. He attempted just three field goal attempts in the first 20 minutes. Coming out of halftime, he was a man possessed, and nothing showcases it better than that final jumper—off balance, as time expired. The “what more can you do to defend” kind of shot.

Timme’s final line on Saturday was stellar: 25 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, zero turnovers. That follows up his line from the first round against Georgia State: 32 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, two turnovers. After production like that, you can understand if a guy forgets he is on live TV. Turns out even Drew Timme is human.

One of the really weird narratives that have taken hold over the course of Gonzaga’s run of success is that the Bulldogs always struggle against athletic teams as if all teams don’t tend to struggle more against athletic teams. This seemed to be cemented by the beatdown against the Baylor Bears in the national championship game last season, which, fair. But this narrative has largely existed prior, and we heard it plenty from the announcing crew during the game yesterday.

That narrative explicitly extends itself to Timme in a rather negative way. People will very casually and very often just toss out how Timme struggles against athletic big men as if this is just a fact written in stone, and the first half of the Memphis game is the perfect microcosm for the tug and pull the Gonzaga fanbase has with Timme.

We all know Timme has the footwork, the crafty head, and the ability to put the ball in the bucket. We also all know that Timme is a bit slow, to put it kindly, and doesn’t have the best defensive instincts. So in a game in which he is a bit silent and the opposing players are getting their dunks, Timme makes an easy punching bag for Gonzaga’s ills.

In the first 20 minutes of the game on Saturday, it wasn’t so much that the Memphis Tigers had figured out Timme as the Tigers had figured out Gonzaga. Timme had just three shot attempts going into halftime, less a complete failure of his part and more a success of Memphis’ ability to keep the ball out of the post.

Timme is a one-man wrecking machine and essentially a perfect example of consistency. Teams can only take him out of the game for so long. Memphis found that out the hard way. Perhaps, finally, we can silence the idea that Timme struggles against athletic big men.

The proof of Timme’s excellence in March is in the box score:

  • Regular Season (82) games: 24.1 minutes, 15 points, 61% FG, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.8 turnovers
  • NCAA Tournament (8) games: 31.1 minutes, 22.4 points, 64% FG, 8.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 turnovers

In those NCAA Tournament games, he has faced off against the likes of the Memphis’ big men, Evan Mobley, Isaiah Mobley, and Cody Riley.

Examining that even further, it’s pretty clear that Timme is, in short, stepping up when the competition demands. Here are a couple of KenPom splits:

  • 2022 Overall Averages (31 games): 116.6 ORtg, eFG% 60.2
  • 2022 vs. Tier A (13 games): 111.5 ORtg, eFG% 62.1
  • 2021 Overall Averages (32 games): 129.3 ORtg, eFG% 66.3
  • 2021 vs. Tier A (13 games): 122.8 ORtg, eFG% 64.9

Fandom is an emotional reaction more than a logical one—games of such high stakes and emotions as Saturday are the perfect example, so it is understandable that the “Timme struggles against more athletic guys” will gain more traction than it should.

However, Drew Timme’s performance over Memphis on Saturday is another fantastic one in his own personal book as well as another stellar showing for a Gonzaga athlete on the big stage. If Gonzaga is going to go all the way, they’ll probably need a couple more showings like that to cut down the nets.

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