The black jerseys haven’t been cursed for a while, got to stop saying that.
That was truly some of the best play I’ve seen from the Zags from tip-off to the final buzzer in quite a while. Six of the seven key rotation players scored in double figures. The Zags as a team held a consistent whole USC squad (38.5 3PT heading into the matchup) under Andy Enfield to a mere 27.3 3PT% (6-22 3PT). On the other end, Gonzaga was lighting the net on fire like it was NBA Jam with their 52.3 3PT% (12-22 3PT), 54.5 FG% (34-65 FG), and 75 FT% (9-12 FT).
Yes, Isaiah Collier (14 points on 6-14 FG, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal) is the top prospect heading into next year’s draft. Yes, I was worried about his big-bodied size and weight over the Gonzaga backcourt of Ryan Nembhard and Nolan Hickman. I’m glad I was wrong. Collier’s conditioning stood out in a bad way as Mark Few makes sure everyone on his squad is prepared in the offseason for the grind that a college basketball season can be and make it run like a well-oiled machine. If the potential #1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft wants to keep up his stock, it’s time to hit the suicides a bit more after practice on a daily basis. Stromer’s conditioning on the defensive end put that realization into perspective as he matched up against Collier for most of the game and held more than his own.
Dusty Stromer is not a freshman. I swear. I think he skipped a couple of years back in elementary or middle school cause he looks like a seasoned veteran only seven games in. With his consistent effort on the defensive end standing out the most from the start of the season, Stromer decided to switch it up and flex off his ability to shoot the rock. With the game-high and his career-high 15 points against USC, he went 4-9 3PT to go along with his 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block.
Stromer has been and continues to be the x-factor the Zags. He looks more and more comfortable in this offense under Mark Few. You know the defensive energy will be there game-in and game-out but if he starts to be more a consistent perimeter threat, this team looks like a potential Final Four squad.
Boogie Ellis was the true prospect that made a mark in my draft predictions for the upcoming offseason. The fifth year senior proved he’s the best pure shooters on this squad and one of the top shot-makers in the college game (28 points on 12-21 FG and 4-9 3PT, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals). That move he made from Memphis to Inglewood did wonders for his overall career projections in my mind.
As for Gonzaga’s bench production, it may not a have a ton of names but Braden Huff (12 points on 5-9 FG and 2-3 3PT) and Ben Gregg (14 points on 5-7 FG, 2-3 3PT, 8 rebounds, 2 assists) are as good as it comes. The Zags have Energizer Bunnies in big supply on the sideline. I know I’m probably am repeating myself but Gonzaga has one of (if not the) deepest frontcourts in the country. It doesn’t seem that close to me.
Fun fact of the Day: Gonzaga has won 16 straight games against PAC-12 opponents. Could it be extended against Washington on Saturday? Can the Zags end with an epic winning streak before the embarrassing collapse of once such a legendary conference?
One game at a time, folks. Time to welcome the first SWAC program to the Kennel this season in Arkansas-Pine Buff tomorrow at 5 PM PT on ESPN+. Make it a fantastic week, Zags.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho