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There are numerous teams this year that have the potential to make it to the Final Four in what should be an exciting as usual NCAA Tournament. We will go over some of the favorites to cut down the nets at the end, starting with Gonzaga.
Team: Gonzaga Bulldogs
Coach: Mark Few
First Opponent: Prairie View/Fairleigh Dickinson
KenPom Offensive Efficiency Rating: 1st
KenPom Defensive Efficiency Rating: 14th
Why Gonzaga Can Win It All: If you didn’t read the offensive efficiency stat posted above, please read again. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are running a prolific and historically efficient offense, and if the season ended today they would place third on the list of most efficient offenses during the last 12 years! Gonzaga is elite in almost every offensive category. Three-point shooting, two-point shooting, free throw percentage, block rate, turnover rate, hell any rate you name it, the Bulldogs are incredible. Gonzaga has an embarrassment of riches including two future first round picks in junior forwards Rui Hachimura and junior Brandon Clarke. The Bulldogs forwards may be the stars but the backcourt of sophomore Zach Norvell and senior Josh Perkins facilitate the lethal offensive attack. Coach Mark Few runs a spread ball-screen offense that stresses the defense with great spacing. Few is also an expert tactician who can adjust his offense to his personnel and will take advantage of any match up he sees fit. Gonzaga is a great shooting team but does not shoot threes for merely the sake of shooting threes. Coach Few loves to stress the interior of an opposing defense and use his forwards post skills to attack the rim as much as possible. It is important to note that forward Killian Tillie remains out with a foot injury, and his potential return would only add more firepower on offense. The Bulldogs also strike fear in opponents with their defense. They possess tremendous length and athleticism and are constantly ready to disrupt opposing offenses. Brandon Clarke is one of the best, if not the best rim-defenders in college basketball who has the ability to become a transcendent defender at the professional level. If Gonzaga can stay true to their style of play they will look like a great bet to be in the Final Four in Minneapolis.
Why Gonzaga Won’t Win It All: Gonzaga hasn’t lost since December 15th 2018 so we have to go back in time to see the how and why they lost. The Bulldogs only two losses were suffered back-to-back. The first defeat was against Tennessee losing 76-73 on a neutral floor followed by a loss at North Carolina 103-90. The two common threads I noticed that contributed to their losses were three-point defense and poor defensive rebounding. In their two losses (a very small sample size) Gonzaga allowed their opponents to shoot an average of 46.2% from deep, an astronomical total. Onto rebounding, where Gonzaga ranks in the top third in overall defensive rebounding per game. However, in both losses the Bulldogs gave up 30 combined offensive rebounds, which allowed for valuable second chance points that contributed to their close losses. The Bulldogs are going to score points, that much is for certain, but, if their defense falls flat during the tournament they can be prone to an early exit.
By Evan Kurland