Gonzaga will enter the NCAA Tournament with just one loss. That’s right. The Bulldogs are 32-1 this season, winning every game except a 79-71 home loss to BYU on Feb. 25.
Nevertheless, there are questions.
The Zags have been one of the best programs in America over the last 20 years but have yet to reach the Final Four. What makes this year’s team different?
“Well, I think offensively they’re very good, as most Gonzaga teams have been,” former Gonzaga All-American and NBA first-round pick Dan Dickau told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They’re incredibly efficient. They can score inside on you with Przemek Karnowksi, Zach Collins, Johnathan Williams. Guard play, they can score in a number of different ways with their guards. But it’s defensively where they’re so much different than other Gonzaga teams in the past. A lot of times, Gonzaga teams have gone zone maybe because they can’t necessarily guard an individual player on the perimeter or they had some struggles with a certain matchup. Now the reason they go zone is to completely change the look of the game and give you another look that you’ve got to try to figure out. Gonzaga’s defensive numbers are off the charts.”
Still, if there’s one weakness for Gonzaga, it’s on the glass – and that could be the difference between making and missing the Final Four.
“I think they have to rebound consistently,” Dickau said. “There’s been a few stretches throughout the season where they’ve had some slippage on the glass, and that has allowed teams to hang in there – meaning in West Coast Conference play, in particular. Early in league play, they had a couple games where they struggled on the glass, and when that happened, it would be a four-, five-, six-point game. They can’t have those kind of issues going up against, say, a Big Ten team if they’re matched up in the second round or an SEC team that’s got a lot of length and athleticism. They’ve got to be solid on the glass because honestly, with their versatility defensively, they’re going to force you into taking bad shots and they’re going to contest shots. It’s what they do finishing the possession off (that matters).”
That could be problem if Gonzaga reverts to zone, either by choice or necessity.
“If they go zone, are they going to be able to rebound out of that zone?” Dickau wondered. “That is always one of the things that people question about playing a zone. They’ve got the length, they’ve got the athleticism to do it. But they just need to finish off those possessions.”