How big of a threat are the ‘Zags?


How far can the Bulldogs go this season?
How far can the Bulldogs go this season?

Gonzaga has been good at basketball for years. The Bulldogs might be having their best season, ever. So just how much of a threat is Gonzaga come time for ‘March Madness’?

Mark Few is one of the least-talked about and best coaches in America. He has amassed 425 victories and a winning percentage of damn-near 81 percent in his 16 seasons as head coach of the program. His team is 22-1 this season, after going 29-7 and losing to ¹Arizona in the third round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

Gonzaga’s one loss this season was in overtime at ¹Arizona. Could this team make it to the Final Four? The answer is yes, but only if the ‘Zags are fortunate enough to avoid ¹Arizona.

This team is loaded and has pummeled opponents into submission all season. Balance (five players averaging double-figure points), depth (eight players play at least 18 minutes per game), and experience (three seniors who have played a combined total of 364 college games) have proved to be a lethal trifecta so far this season.

Add Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer to that mix (15.6 ppg this season) and a former NBA player’s son (Arvydas Sabonis’ son, Domantas, who has dominated the WCC this season and is shooting 71.8 percent from the field), and the ‘Zags have all the ingredients that would make a pretty damn good entrée at Spokane restaurant.

And here is why I think the ‘Zags have a great chance to finally get over the hump for the first time.

The Bulldogs are 10th in the country in points per game (80.9) and first in field goal percentage (52.8 percent).

Their defense has suffocated opponents. The ‘Zags are holding opposing teams to 37.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent in conference play.

I mentioned Gonzaga’s depth earlier. Few’s team has a nice complement of guards and posts. Wiltjer is mainly a perimeter threat, but being 6 feet 10 inches tall, he can play inside, at times. Then there is the 7-foot Przemek Karnowski, who starts ahead of Sabonis, and has shown that he can be a force when he wants.

The guards are probably the most-prized possession on the team. Gary Bell Jr. has struggled this season, but he is an experienced player and a very good defender.

Kevin Pangos is the best of the bunch. He can do it all, and has shown it throughout his career. He is a deadly from three and another experienced guard.

Byron Wesley transferred from USC and has adjusted nicely in his senior season. He is more of a slasher than a shooter, and being 6 feet 5 inches tall helps him against smaller players.

One thing that has always seemed to hurt the ‘Zags is the schedule they play, especially in conference. They don’t beat a lot of good teams because they don’t play a lot of good teams.

Despite that, if the ‘Zags are able to get a good draw by getting a good seed in the tournament, then I think this team has a very good chance at making a run at a Final Four appearance.

¹ – Gonzaga can’t beat Arizona? 1-5 against the Wildcats since 1999-2000 season.

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