No matter the outcome, a Bulldog was coming out victorious tonight. It just so happened that the right Bulldog did. And the Zags did it in physical fashion and style with the Nike N7 turquoise jerseys on. Best look in Gonzaga history.
The first thing I got to point out... the fanbase was wrong. Gonzaga has shooters. More specifically, Gonzaga has big men shooters in Braden Huff (19 points on 7-10 FG, 2-3 3P and 9 rebounds off the bench) and Ben Gregg (6 points on 2-3 FG, 1-2 3P and 5 rebounds on the bench). Let’s not get it twisted.
As for the season-ending injury new to Steel Venters, it blows. It really does. But the young, talented freshman in Dusty Stromer was given the starting nod and it looks like he can hold more than his own. He joins fantastic names like Chet Holmgren, Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert as other freshmen in recent history to start in their Gonzaga debut.
Moving towards the veterans on the roster and I feel so happy saying this. Welcome back to the beautiful college game, Graham Ike (11 points on 4-6 FG, 3 rebounds, 3 steals)! The Wyoming transfer hasn’t played since March of 2022 and he looked like he was itching to get back on the court. He’s going to score a ton on the low block. If there was anyone I would want to replace Drew Timme, it’d be Ike. I see a ton of Julius Randle in his game (and that body mass, wow).
Ryan Nembhard (16 points on 7-17 FG, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal) had a slow start to his Gonzaga tenure but as an experienced player would, he quickly adjusted. He is the vocal floor leader of this team and will only get more comfortable in this new offensive system. The Creighton transfer already has made everyone around him better, especially Nolan Hickman (15 points on 7-18 FG, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal). Being an off-ball guard will turn his collegiate career around in a major way.
Props to a really solid and well-disciplined Yale squad led by James Jones. Top 25 programs usually don’t start their season with an opponent like the Ivy League favorites. Reminds me a lot of Saint Mary’s. This is a W for the Zags that could move the needle for seeding on Selection Sunday.
Next matchup is against Eastern Oregon on Tuesday at 6 PM PT. I want to see better defending on the pick and roll as well as more push of the tempo. Zag Nation, let’s run it back. Ecstatic to have Gonzaga basketball in my life once again!
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho