Gonzaga has all the tools to capture the national title

Now that the high school basketball season is over, it is time to turn to Division I college basketball’s March Madness.
On Tuesday night I watched the St. Mary’s-Gonzaga game.
Gonzaga, a small Catholic college in Washington State, plays in the West Coast Conference, which is the seventh-ranked conference in RealTimeRPI.com’s ratings of the nation’s 32 DI conferences. Gonzaga’s RPI is fifth out of 347 DI schools and it finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in several national polls.
Gonzaga finished its regular season conference schedule with a 16-0 record and then went on to win the conference tournament, beating St. Mary’s in the final, its third win over St. Mary’s this season..
Gonzaga is 31-2 overall and the only losses have come to Butler on the road 64-63 and a home loss to Illinois 74-65.
Gonzaga has a 14-game win streak, is the No. 1 seed in the West Regional  and is a well balanced team that will not sneak up on anybody this season like Butler did two years in a row as a No. 5 and 7 seed and getting to the national final both times.
Gonzaga has excellent size in 7-foot junior Kelly Olynyk and 6-9 senior Elais Harris. Adding to the size is 7-1 freshmen Przemek Karnowski and 6-9 junior Sam Dower.
Their point guard is junior 5-10  Dave Stockton, the son of former Gonzaga great and Utah Jazz NBA All-Star John Stockton.
The perimeter shooters are sophomore guards Kevin Pangos (6-2) and Gary Bell Jr. (6-0).
Gonzaga also has good depth at all positions with two subs averaging 16 minutes per game, one at 11 minutes and two at 10 minutes.
As a team Gonzaga is shooting at 50 percent  from the floor, 76 from the line and 34 from the 3- point line. The team averages 16 assists per game to just 11 turnovers and commits only 16 personal fouls per game. They average 80.1 points a game.
They have 10 players averaging over 10 minutes per game.
Fouling the Bulldogs is also a problem as Olynyk shoots 78.5 percent, Harris 76.6, Pangos 81, Bell 72.3 and Dower 76.7.
They certainly take advantage of their size. They try to go inside on almost every offensive possession when in the half-court. They run out of a high-low setup against man-to-man and both big men are very capable of setting their teammates up on the block..
If their big men are double-teamed at the block, they just kick out to an open wing player or the player at the foul line for open shots.
They get a great deal from this inside-outside play and have a well spaced 1-3-1 offensive setup which makes it very hard to double down on the low-block man with the ball.
When St. Mary’s did not double down on either Harris or Olynyk, they scored at will.
They also used dribble penetration by Stockton from the point to draw help defense and he was very adept at passing to the men at the wings or the low-block player..
They also used a lot of high screens by Harris and Olynyk, would roll off the screen and scored effectively..
If teams do not have two big men to match up with Gonzaga’s  two bigs, then they will really get hurt inside if they play man-to-man defense.
If teams cannot match up well during the NCAA Tourney, then they will have to play some type of zone defense, but that only allows the bigs to get to the offensive boards harder.
Gonzaga is also a very good man-to-man defensive team, as the players move their feet, do not foul that much and box out very well on the defensive end.
The thing that really impressed me about Gonzaga was how committed they were as a team to get the ball inside to their big men before they took 3-pointers or other perimeter shots. I have not seen a team get the ball inside as much as they do since my John Bapst High School team that was 6-11, 6-8, 6-8, 6-4 and 6-2 and had a rule that one of the low post players on the block had to touch the ball before they took a shot unless it was a layup.
Gonzaga is not quite that insistent, but darn near it, as the guards are constantly searching for their big men at the high post or at the low blocks.
For a school with a small enrollment which has always made a good showing in the “Big Dance,” this may be their year.
They are well coached and disciplined. Coach Mark Few is an excellent collegiate coach.
The past few seasons I have rooted for Butler, but this year my favorite team to root for is going to be Gonzaga. They are due for coach Few.

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