In my last weeks, BDN Basketball Column, “Off the Rim”, I stated I thought the number one ranked team in the country before the brackets had been announced for the “Big Dance” had the necessary tools to get to the “Final Four” and maybe a chance even to win it all.
However, I did say that there were a couple of pitfalls.
1. Was that they were no longer an unknown lower seeded team. They were the number one regular season ranbked college team in the country with a 31-2 record and were first in all of the ranking polls.
They were no longer “the hunter”, they had become “the hunted”. They were not going to be able to sneak up on teams like Butler and George Mason did in their runs to the final fours and Butlers to trips to the final four championship games.
2. Tey might have trouble with teams that matched up with them size wise.
In their opening round game against 16th seed ranked Southern they had all they could handle, as they almost became the first 1 team to lose to a 16th ranked team in the history of the “Big Dance”.
This lost seemed to me did not do anything to build their confidence for the second round game against 9th seeded Witchita State who had upset 8th seede Pittsburgh despite the fact that they were onl 2 for 20 from 3 point land.
Gonzaga had several problems in this game. The first was when 6’1″ sophomre guard Bell went down with an ankle sprain very early in the game and he never returned to the game. Bell aaveraged 28 minutes per game. averaged 9.2 ppg, shot 39% from 3 point land, 72% from the line and 42% from the floor. He was a very good compliment to their outstanding shooter and number 3 scorer 6’2″ soph Kevin Pangos.
Second this made it much easier for WS to concentrate defensively on their outstanding shooter Pangos and it forced Coach Drew to use the non scoring threat in David Stockton to play more than his noirmal 18 minutes per game at point guard.
Third, they did not go inside early or often enough where they did have a slight size advantage.
Fourth, they allowed WS to make 14 of 28 3 point shots for an outstanding 50%.
They just did not close out quickly enough and that may have due to Bell not being in the lineup as he was quicker than his replacement.
THe fifth and maybe the most important factor was the fact that Dave Stockton the sophomore point guard is not a three point scoring threat. I was wondering before how long it would take teams to figure out that they could sag way off him when he had the ball at the 3 point line, which cut off his effectiveness in getting dribble penetration to get open 3’s for Pangos.
Stockton, the son of former Gonzaga Star and NBA Utah NBA All=Star, does not have his father’s shooting ability which is very surprising to me as he is after all a sophomore in college, not a sophomore in high school. He averaged just 3.3 points per game, shot less than an average percentage from the floor on what little 3 point or 2 point shooting he did do. He only shot 53% from the foul line which is a rreal terrible weakness for a point guard especially in late game fouling situations when teams want to put the team who is ahead poorest free throw shooter on the line.
My question for Coach Drew is this! Was it because Dave Stockton is John Stockton’s son, who is playing at his fathers alma mater in the same point guard position as his father is the real reason he got so much playing time without the ability to shoot 3’s and foul shots. He certainly is a real good ball ahndler, dribbler and passer and assist player, but his weakness as a shooter certainly did not help the Gonzaga Cause.
Granted Dave Stocktons increased playing time in the loss to Witchita State was because of the injury to Bell early in the game.