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10 + 1 Observations from Gonzaga’s Victory over USF

It’s going to get exciting the next three weeks

NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It was great to see Dan Dickau honored tonight. He was an incredible player and is now a successful Spokane businessman and, as we all know, a basketball color commentator. After the Elite Eight run of ’99 and the return to the Sweet 16 the following year, Gonzaga could have easily slid back into obscurity as so many other NCAA tourney Cinderella teams have done. Dickau’s astonishing jump shot prevented that from happening. He led the Zags back to the NCAA Tournament in both his years as a player and earned First Team All-American honors his senior year. Congratulations Dan.

1. Drew Timme had something to prove last night and did so spectacularly. Really bothered in San Francisco by 7’2” Volodymyr Markovetskyy, his 3 for 16 performance was possibly the worst game of his career. Tonight, he was both quick and decisive when attacking the basket, taking better quality and higher percentage shots. If Few hadn’t pulled him so early, he could have gone for 40. At one point in the first half, Gonzaga was ahead on points in the paint 28 to 4. Also, is anyone else surprised at how many jump balls he’s winning, gotta be over 50%.

2. Anton Watson was huge again tonight and besides Timme, has been the team’s most consistent player. The young man plays with a joie de vie and I certainly enjoy watching him play. His KenPom offensive rating of 121.9 puts him in the top 100 most efficient players in country and he continues to fill the stat sheet with rebounds, steals and assists. Free throw shooting though? Anybody else, when they see him demonstrate the shooting motion in the pizza commercial, wish the young woman playing the cashier would give him shooting tips? “Put your elbow in Anton and keep your forearm in line with your body and I’ll give you the $11.99 deal.”

3. Hunter Sallis is seemingly getting better every time out; 3 of 5 tonight and once again lock-down defense. His shooting motion looks so much better and he’s gained confidence in his shot, his blocks are spectacular and he had a great cut to the rim and an offensive rebound put back last night. I know Gonzaga has been trying to have him run the base line like Joel Ayayi, but he’s so much more explosive and athletic than Joel. I commented last game that I don’t think he’s playing in late game situations because of his tendency to foul, maybe put him on Cam Shelton when they go to LMU until he picks up four.

4. Speaking of fouls, Ben Gregg picked up two in less than a minute last night. Ben was also 3 of 6 from the field with two treys, three rebounds and assist and a steal. I love his aggressiveness, his enthusiasm and the way he goes balls-out when he enters the game. Since this is his first season with substantial minutes, I’m hoping he can keep the fouling under control. I’m reminded of freshman Domas Sabonis and Filip Petrusev who both had the same issue.

5. I’ve been thinking about this past several weeks and when I heard Andy Patton mention it on his Lock-On Zags podcast I thought I’d bring it up. I can see Gonzaga going after another big in the Transfer Portal next season to start at center. I was on the Efton Reid train early in the season, thought he’s given some quality minutes in the last couple of games. When he didn’t enter the game until the last two minutes last night, especially with Timme sitting most of the second half, I don’t think he has Coach Few’s confidence. Ben Gregg got 19 minutes and I would have expected to see Efton play the last 8 to 10.

6. I don’t usually admire other team’s star players, but I’m really going to miss Khalil Shabazz. The Seattle product has been tough as nails and always seems to have a great game against Gonzaga. His backcourt partner from last year, Jamaree Bouyea has just signed a 10-day contract with the Miami Heat. Shabazz may not have the NBA level talent, but here’s hoping he has a long and successful career at some level of professional basketball.

7. Anybody else notice how prominent Zach Norvell seems to be always conversing with the players? I saw him walking to the locker room at Moraga with his arms around two players and last night they showed a shot of him talking to Gregg and Hickman as soon as they sat on the bench. If you saw Heister interview him on the Mark Few show a couple of weeks ago, I hope you, like me, were impressed by his positivity and personality. I hope he can rehabilitate his injury and return to play if he desires, but coaching is a future possibility. I also read Przemek Karnowski made a stop in stop in Spokane before going to Arizona to be a grad assistant. It’s great to see so many former players involved in the program and so many who live in the local area.

8. Maybe it’s just me because KenPom still has the Gonzaga defense ranked at #89, but I’ve thought they’ve looked much better the last few games. They were very solid against Santa Clara last week, excellent for over 30+ minutes against St. Mary’s and great in the first 10 minutes against the Dons. I know I said first 10 minutes, but by that time GU’s lead had grown comfortable and USF (Zane Meeks and Khalil Shabazz) started making some tough (read insane) shots. I know it’s frustrating that the team has lapses during the game both offensively and defensively, but I’ve been encouraged by what I perceive as a better defensive effort.

9. Like Gonzaga before them earlier in conference play St. Mary’s has been walking a tightrope the last four games and it finally caught up with them in Los Angeles last night. Cam Shelton had 31 points after halftime to lead LMU to victory over the Gaels. Should both Gonzaga and the Gaels win out, they meet at their final conference game at the Kennel to share the WCC season title. It should be incredible. I’ve got to give credit to LMU and Cam Shelton. With victories over both the Zags and the Gaels, they’ll be a tough out at the WCC tournament and things will get exciting when Gonzaga travels to LMU next Thursday.

10. Just a huge game tonight for Rasir Bolton; 8 for 9 from the field, 3 three-pointers and six assists. It’s been a tough year for Rasir, he’s not been nearly as consistent as he was last season. Next time you ask “why isn’t guard X starting instead of Bolton”, it’s because he’s capable of a game like this at any time. I’m just hoping for a huge game this season where he and Strawther along with Smith/Hickman put it all together. If that happens, Gonzaga can play with and probably beat anyone.

11. The great Bill Russell is inextricably linked, and rightly so, to the University of San Francisco. I suggest everyone carve out four hours of this Super Bowl weekend to watch the two-part documentary Bill Russell: Legend on Netflix. It’s not just about basketball, it’s for anyone who’s a fan of history and sociology. For a shorter watch, YouTube has the Academy Award winning documentary short: The Queen of Basketball. It’s only 22 minutes long and tells the story of one of the first great female basketball players; Lucy Harris.