Friday, December 12, 2008

We've Been Promoted!

We have a new website:

We've joined SB Nation as their Gonzaga blogger so we'll no longer be updating this page. We had a good run here at TKR but will now be The Slipper Still Fits.

Here's what you need to do once you get to the site!

  • First of all, Sign Up for an SB Nation account and join our blog! It's quick, easy and FREE! That way you can comment and leave fan posts and fan shots!
  • Browse the SB Nation blogroll. I know many of our fans are Washington based and their are blogs covering basically every major sports team in the state, including FieldGulls for the Seahawks, Lookout Landing for the Mariners, CougCenter for Washington State, and UWDawgPound for Washington. Each one of these sites is oustanding as are the rest of the blogs here at SB.
  • Get Involved! the FanPosts and FanShots are much like message boards in which all the readers can get involved and post stories or theories about Gonzaga. It really is a great tool to get the pulse of the fan base.
  • We'll be having live game threads as well. SB Nation makes these threads easy with live updating comments meaning that you have no need to refresh because the system does it for you. This should be an oustanding way to get everyone involved and keep the discussion rolling!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

TKR Scouting Report: Guy-Marc Michel

Earlier today, TKR had the opportunity to watch Guy-Marc Michel and his North Idaho College teammates play live at the MAC. While NIC was taking an incredibly over-matched opponent in the Community Colleges of Spokane, it was still a good chance to watch Guy-Marc closely and get a feel for the type of game he plays. In this game, Michel ended up with 10 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocked shots (Click here for game recap).TKR will get another chance to watch Guy-Marc play on January 30th, when he will go one-on-one with fellow Gonzaga recruit, Daequon Montreal and the College of Southern Idaho.

Positives: The first thing that you notice when watching Guy-Marc is that he is very fluid for a 7'1 athlete. He runs the floor with ease, and I even heard ZagBell mention that it looks like he is gliding when he runs the court. This was a pleasant surprise, as many guys his size tend to labor when they are forced to run the court. With the up-tempo system that Gonzaga employs, he would be able to get many easy baskets in transition. The area where Guy-Marc really thrives is on the defensive end of the court. He uses his great size and tremendous wing-span to guard every shot that is taken. He also possesses excellent timing on his shot-blocking which allows for him to deflect many shots that other players his size wouldn't. It is clear he is most comfortable on this end of the court, as he is very vocal with his teammates, and controls everything in the paint. Michel is also a fundamentally solid rebounder. Immediately after any shot goes up, he locates a body and boxes out the man. I believe that just based on his defensive ability, Guy-Marc could contribute solid minutes to the GU team this season.

Negatives: While there is no denying the tremendous force that Guy-Marc is on the defensive end, his offensive game is about as raw as I have seen. While he is vocal and confident with his teammates on the defensive side, Michel appears to be timid and doesn't demand the ball in the set offense. The NIC was frustrating to watch, because many times, Michel would only receive the ball at the top of the key, where he was clearly uncomfortable. The interesting aspect of Michel's offensive game is that he actually has a decent post game. There were two separate occasions where NIC was able to get Michel isolated with his back-to-the-basket, and both times he was able to finish with ease. I was most impressed by a beautiful baby hook he was able to score over his defender from the left block. It seemed that he could hit this shot any time he wanted, but instead he allowed himself to be a bystander in the NIC offense.

Conclusion: It was clear to see why the Gonzaga coaching staff is so interested in Guy-Marc Michel for the class of 2010. He is a 7 footer who is blessed with great athleticism and lots of natural ability. In the stands tonight was Gonzaga coach Tommy Lloyd as well as Austin Daye and Ira Brown, and you better believe that Lloyd was scouting every move that Michel made. He would be a tremendous asset to this program in the class of 2010, and along with Sam Dower, Andy Poling, Rob Sacre, and potentially Daequon Montreal, there would be tremendous depth at the PF and C position. The games against CSI on January 30th and 31st should be a great opportunity to see how Michel matches up with one of the top JC bigs in the country.

The Zags Scored 70; Kind Words from a Cougar Blogger

Before the Gonzaga-Washington State game, The Kennel Report was joined by Nuss, who writes for the Washington State blog, CougCenter. After the respective sides have settled down, Nuss was kind enough to join us and write a piece from the viewpoint of a Cougar fan. With that being said, we'll let Nuss have the floor:

If there was any doubt as to which college basketball team is the best in the state of Washington this year -- and I'm not sure there actually was any doubt, but let's assume there was at least a sliver -- it's pretty much been cleared up at this point, hasn't it?

I can count on one hand in the last five or so years the number of times the Cougars have been dismantled like that, and to have it happen so quickly and over such a short amount of time was stunning, to say the least. As you all know, I'm the guy who said there was no possible way the Zags get to 70 because that would require an offensive efficiency around 115, and that was just absurd to even consider against a Cougar defense that held Baylor to 101 and Pitt to 97.7. I just didn't think Gonzaga was any more special than either of those two teams.

But then it happened. And as I watched the game unfold, I was grasping for reasons as to how this could possibly be happening. I kept thinking, "C'mon! We're absolutely giving this game away!" I kept thinking, "Yeah, Gonzaga started making their shots, but man, we gift-wrapped it!"

Then, I stewed. And I stewed some more. And the more I thought about it, the more I grew to appreciate what truly was a stunningly efficient performance by Gonzaga in that second half. I kept thinking it had everything to do with us -- a typical fan-centric point of view -- but I had to start recognizing the role that Gonzaga played, which was a lot bigger than I was giving the Bulldogs credit for.

It wasn't so much generating the turnovers, per se, because I do think that many of them were bonehead plays that were gift-wrapped. I mean, that 3/4-court trap was halfhearted at best -- it's not like you guys are
Louisville or something. No, the Zags generate pressure in a different way, flustering you by scoring with a relentlessness that reminds you of North Carolina. (We'll get to the Tar Heels in a second, by the way.) Yeah, the Cougs were making mistakes, but they generally survive them with their defense. Last night? A couple of mistakes and a missed shot and this went from a three-point game to a 12-point game. Just like that.

Do you realize what kind of pressure that puts on a team, especially one as deliberate as the Cougars? A double digit deficit in the second half is WSU's worst nightmare, especially against a team that you know is going to make some shots, no matter what kind of defense you play. Well, the pressure got to the Cougs, and for some inexplicable reason, they thought the best course of action was to play Gonzaga's style. Fourteen minutes and 36 points into the second half, they realized their mistake -- far too late, of course.

And that's where you, Gonzaga fan, ought to be most excited. You imposed your uptempo will on WSU. I hope you realize just how significant that is, because I've only seen it one other time -- at the end of last year's NCAA Tournament in the Sweet Sixteen loss to ... North Carolina. It didn't surprise me one bit that Matt Bouldin said the Zags had watched that game, because although it took Gonzaga longer than it took
North Carolina to get to us, the script was the same.

Are you as good as
North Carolina? No way -- no one is. But you've now taken two teams who tried to slow it down on you to the woodshed. You did to WSU what Pitt and Baylor couldn't. And you've already more than proven that you can beat teams who dare to run with you, easily handling one of the fastest of them all, Tennessee. If you can beat UConn -- which I absolutely think you can do -- you'll really have something going for you. I know it's awful early, but a No. 1 seed is definitely a realistic goal for this squad as long as it doesn't stub its toe in the WCC.

After what I saw last night, I have a hard time believing that will happen. Despite what I said on my site yesterday about some of your fans – and I know that’s not all of you – I have never wavered in my belief that Gonzaga is a damn good team. Certainly, nothing that happened last night changed my mind. If anything, I’m more convinced than ever that this team is for real.

For more Zags love from a Cougar, check out this post on CougCenter before the game began last night..

A Few Good Questions's Luke Winn

TKR has been reading prominent college basketball writers for many years and their are few writers better than Luke Winn from Sports Illustrated. We were lucky enough to get in contact with Mr. Winn and ask him a few questions about Gonzaga basketball this season. We hope you enjoy this interview with him. It won't be the last time we have an interview with a prominent writer from across the nation. Enjoy!

The Kennel Report: The improved play of Jeremy Pargo has been one of the most important aspects of Gonzaga's early season success. Where have you seen the greatest improvement in his game? Where would you rank him among the top PG's in the country?

Luke Winn: I think Pargo -- and the whole team, for that matter -- is being far more patient this year on offense. Instead of going for what Mark Few calls "hero" plays early in the shot clock, or on the end of a fast break, they're moving the ball around and ending up with much better looks. Pargo's assist to turnover ratio has shot way up as a result (from 1.4-to-1 last year to 4.3-to-1 this year). So the area of his greatest improvement, I would say, is as a decision-maker.

As for Pargo's national rank as a PG, there are still four guys I'd take in front of him: Davidson's Steph Curry (who's being called a point guard this year), UNC's Ty Lawson (the best all-around point in the country), UCLA's Darren Collison (can defend and shoot the three), and Syracuse's Jonny Flynn (who's a little faster than Pargo, and a little better scorer). Pargo's among the best of the second tier, but I still don't see him as a first-rounder in the next NBA draft.

TKR: Gonzaga has long had the perception as a "finesse" and "soft" basketball team. What do you think are the main factors behind the increased toughness this particular team seems to be demonstrating?

LW: The switch away from being a finesse team actually began last year, when the Zags finished in the top 35 in defensive efficiency, and this year the toughness has really taken hold. I'll give you four reasons for the change in identity:

1) Adam Morrison and Derek Raivio (their all-offense, no-defense stars) are two years removed from the lineup, and the defense has gotten used to playing 5-on-5 instead of 3-on-5.
2) Few and his staff have been emphasizing D a lot more in practice, and he has two defensive-minded assistants in Ray Giacoletti and Leon Rice.
3) There's great length at almost every position, particularly with Micah Downs (6-8), Matt Bouldin (6-5) and Steven Gray (6-5) on the perimeter, and three guys 6-11 or taller in the forward rotation.
4) Demetri Goodson coming off the bench to relieve Pargo and pester opposing point guards. Every coach and player I interviewed brought up Goodson's name when they were asked to explain why the defense had improved.

TKR: The future of Mark Few is a popular topic nearly every off season. Do you see any job opening that Mark Few would leave
Spokane for, and if so, why?

LW: Maybe
Arizona, if it ponied up enough money to make Few one of the highest-paid coaches in the nation. Recruiting there would be easy, and he could probably live as comfortably in Tucson as he does in Spokane. But I don't think Few is going to leave. If he loves Spokane, he has the Zags in the NCAA tournament every year, and he's able to recruit (or produce) NBA-level players already, what's the point of switching jobs?

TKR: With the PAC-10 facing a down season, do you feel that Gonzaga has the talent and the schedule to be considered for a #1 seed in the West come March?

LW: It's not just the Pac-10 that's down. The Big Ten doesn't have a real shot at a No. 1 seed either, which leaves the pool for No. 1 seeds limited to Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina, Duke, Tennessee and the Big East. (I think I've got them all there.) The Zags could earn a No. 1, but they'd probably have to beat UConn in Seattle for a real statement win, and then go through the West Coast Conference with no more than one loss.

TKR: What do you think it will take for this team to break through and make the Final Four? Do you think this team has the depth and talent to compete with and challenge North Carolina?

LW: Gonzaga doesn't have talent or depth to match UNC. But that's fine, because no one else vying for the other three Final Four spots does either. My main worries about the Zags as a Final Four team is with their rebounding; they were murdered on the boards by
, and they don't seem to create many second looks on the offensive glass. I'd like to see Heytvelt pull down more than six rebounds a game, since he's their only true post player in the top seven of the rotation. If the glasswork comes around, they'll really be dangerous.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Outcoached, Outclassed, Outplayed: Zags Dominate Cougs

If I was to tell you that Andrew Sorenson would play in this year's Washington State-Gonzaga game...would you believe me?

Every now and then a game comes along that is absolutely poetic. I know, I know, I wrote that this was just another silly PAC-10 team thinking Gonzaga was inferior but there is some pride in beating the Cougs, a team that took away plenty of happiness during my last two years of college.

Heading into this game, Gonzaga fans heard all the same BS. Can Gonzaga play a slow game? Do they really want to be defended? Blah, blah, blah. Your answer came tonight in an absolute laugher of a game in Pullman, Washington.

Give some credit to the Cougs that showed up in the first half tonight, who now are 1-73 against Top 5 opposition. They gave it their all and capitalized on sloppy fouls by Gonzaga. Believe it or not, this game was 32-29 at halftime. I'm really going to try and focus on the second half during this game but I guess I do have to address the sloppy play in the first half. Gonzaga looked flustered to say the least. They weren't shooting well and they were accumulating fouls very quickly. Josh Heytvelt, Rob Sacre, and Ira Brown had two fouls at halftime. Micah Downs had three. Everything looked bad for Gonzaga and it appeared as though this game was headed to another 51-47 game.

Suddenly, the Zags snapped out of it and realized that Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and the Cougs of last year are no more.

How can I go about explaining the second half? Absolute...perfection. Gonzaga came out fast and shoved the slow pace in the Cougars face. Micah Downs and Steven Gray were outstanding on the press against Wazzu, forcing one 10 second call and numerous amounts of Cougar turnovers. Washington State didn't help their cause at all. Any Cougar fan would agree with me in saying that they just looked flat out bad. I've never seen Taylor Rochestie play so poorly, but this has become an alarming trend for Washington State fans because he is a key player if they are going to have any shot at a tournament bid. Super frosh Klay Thompson looked scared and senior big man Aron Baynes was perfect from the field...but never really established himself as a major threat and finished with 10 points. The most efficient player for the Cougs probably wound up being Caleb Forrest who ended up with 9 points.

Now on to the winning team. Gonzaga was paced by its leaders. Josh Heytvelt was absolutely outstanding, Jeremy Pargo led this team beautifully, and Austin Daye rebounded from a tough start to finish very well. Congrats to Mr. Pargo as well, the official stats have not been released but I believe that he had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists. He had a very Pargo-esque stat line shooting 5-7 from the floor. Not forcing anything, but still directing this team to success. What can you say about Josh Heytvelt? You would be hard pressed to find a player that has come back from more adversity than Mr. Heytvelt. After two early (somewhat questionable) fouls, the big man who apparently dreamed of Washington State (thanks Ehlo) played beautifully. He shot 18 times tonight, including seven from three-point land. Any other night I would say that he shot too many threes but I'm so happy right now that I don't really care. He finished with 22 points and was just exquisite.

Super sophomores Austin Daye and Steven Gray were fantastic tonight as well. Gray, who finished with 9 points, hit some clutch three pointers in the first half when it appeared that WSU was in control of the game. Austin Daye seemed flustered at the start of the game but settled in after a big three in the first half and never looked back. He showed some maturity and was really meshing well with the team. Junior Matt Bouldin had another solid game, especially (you guessed it) in the second half. He continues to play great basketball for this team and not relying on the outside shot to get baskets.

Is there a question about basketball supremacy in the state this year? Gonzaga continues to roll through a challenging non-conference schedule. Next up are the Arizona Wildcats which should be a much different style of game.

Congrats to Mark Few, the staff, and the team. It's another great night to be a Zag.

Quick Zags-Cougs Halftime Report

When: December 10th, 2008 @ 7 PM PST
Where: Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum. Pullman, WA.
TV: KHQ-TV in Spokane/ FSN (check listings)
Betting Line: Gonzaga by 5.5
Official Game Notes

Some things that jump out after the first half of play:
  • Zags up three at halftime; 32-29
  • Foul Trouble: All of the Zags' 'bigs' are in some sort of foul trouble. Josh, Ira, and Rob have two. Micah has three fouls. Some fouls have been 'questionable'
  • Both teams shooting poorly. Steven Gray has shot well from three-point range which is a good sign.
  • Jeremy Pargo has been efficient shooting three/five from the floor.
It wasn't the prettiest first half of play but the Zags are up three. Look for Josh to establish himself if the refs allow it. Hopefully Bouldin shows up and everyone stays out of foul trouble.

If the Cougs don't get hot from outside, I like our odds.


Live Game Thread: Zags Vs. Cougs

When: December 10th, 2008 @ 7 PM PST
Where: Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum. Pullman, WA.
TV: KHQ-TV in Spokane/ FSN (check listings)
Betting Line: Gonzaga by 5.5
Official Game Notes

We'll be making updates throughout the game so come hang out and enter the discussion in the comments section

"Ho-Hum Just Another PAC-10 Team"

I loved this "ho-hum" comment in our previous post about some Gonzaga fans not really seeing the Washington State-Gonzaga match up as being a huge rivalry game. It's weird to say that being that the schools are separated by an hour and a half drive through nothingness. At one point I thought I was a Cougar hater but Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies really made me indifferent towards the school from Pullman. If you've been paying attention to our blogging friends from CougCenter, their is quite a bit of hatred being spewed by the Cougar faithful. Most of it seems to be personal stuff dealing with bad Gonzaga fans or players and the constant debate of who "owns the state". I never fully got this idea because no team ever truly owns a state unless you win a I guess the Seattle Storm own the state or the Spokane Shock if we are giving it to Arena League teams. The Zags have their fans, the Cougs have their fans, and the Huskies (for some reason) have their fans.

Gonzaga enters Pullman, Washington tonight as the fourth ranked team in the nation. That's all I really care about right now. Our next seven games include five teams that were in the NCAA Tournament a season ago. For this reason, their is no way that the game against Washington State should be thought of as anything more than a game against a PAC-10 opponent that happens to play in the same state as us. Sure, if the Zags wins, our fans can call their buddies that went to WSU and celebrate at their expense. Other than that, this game is just a stepping stone to better days for this team. If we win, we are that much closer to achieving our goals in the season which include a #1 seed out West and a top-ranking throughout the season. If we lose, your WSU buddies will call you and celebrate at your expense. Losing to Washington State is something that can't happen for one reason and that is the fact that we are a better team this year with more talent and experience.

Washington State is a far different team from the one that took the court a season ago, whether they want to admit it or not. The loss of Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low are, in my estimation, huge losses. I loved their back court last year and truly believe that Kyle Weaver was one of the most solid and outstanding players all year. Don't get me wrong, I love Klay Thompson and think he is going to be outstanding. I love to hate the Zag-killer Taylor Rochestie and think Aron Baynes is a very good big man. But overall, where the Cougs have changed since last year, the Zags have remained the same.

Actually, we have gotten better. Gonzaga features two players that Washington State did not even see last year in Josh Heytvelt and Steven Gray. Heytvelt has been the most consistent player on the FOURTH BEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY. Steven Gray pushed for a starting spot and, if hot, can bury a team with his outstanding shooting range. There is really no excuse for a loss tonight because the Zags enter at full-strength. Austin Daye and Robert Sacre have one more year under their belt. Matt Bouldin is ready to redeem himself for his 0-9 showing a year ago and Jeremy Pargo is a top point guard in the nation that has sacrificed his own stat line for the good of the team. I haven't even mentioned Demetri Goodson, Micah Downs, and Ira Brown who have been excellent contributors all season long.

This team is deep, this team is talented, and this team is well coached.


Battle for Eastern Washington: Zags Battle Cougs Tonight

When: December 10th, 2008 @ 7 PM PST
Where: Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum. Pullman, WA.
TV: KHQ-TV in Spokane/ FSN (check listings)
Betting Line: Gonzaga by 5.5
Official Game Notes

One of the most pleasant surprises in the college basketball world has been the impressive rise of the Washington St. program. Under Tony Bennett, the Cougs have proven to be one of the top teams on the west coast and capable of beating any team in the country. This has proven to be a blessing for Gonzaga, because it allows for GU to have a guaranteed high quality Pac 10 opponent on the schedule every year. While some programs in the state of Washington have decided to go with a more "national schedule" (just a reminder of the Huskies tremendous national schedule: next 3 games=Portland St., Eastern Washington, and Lehigh), the rivalry between GU and WSU has become one of the top games on the west coast each year.

Gonzaga this season: With a victory over Indiana this past weekend, coupled with a loss by Duke, Gonzaga has moved up to #4 in both polls. I'm guessing many of these voters do not have access to the Big 10 Network, because the Zags were far from impressive against the Hoosiers. While the 70-54 final score seems to show that Gonzaga ran Indiana off the court, the reality is that the inexperienced and over matched Hoosiers hung around and kept the game close. The Zags really struggled shooting the ball, as they shot 3-16 from beyond the arc. Equally upsetting was the number of second-chance points that IU was able to get. GU did not take advantage of their tremendous athletic advantage, and only out-rebounded the significantly smaller Hoosiers by four. While the team is 6-0, there is a significant need for improvement if they hope to be undefeated for the Battle in Seattle.

WSU this season: After losing the core of their past two NCAA Tournament teams, many fans felt that this would be a rebuilding year for WSU. However, the Cougs are off to a 6-2 start, with both of their losses against ranked opponents (Baylor and Pitt). In their most recent game, WSU was defeated by the very talented Baylor Bears. Daven Harmeling and Aron Baynes each scored 14 points in the defeat. With talented freshman like Klay Thompson (11.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game), DeAngelo Casto (3.4 points and 4.4 rebounds), and Marcus Capers (1.9 points and 2.1 rebounds) playing key minutes, this team will need to rely on the veteran presence of Harmeling, Baynes, and Taylor Rochestie to have a successful season.

What We are Watching For: Can the Zags adapt to the slower pace and physical game that WSU will play? In the defeat last year, GU forced up shots early in the shot clock, and played exactly the way WSU wants its opponents to play. With Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low pressuring the backcourt, Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin shot a combined 3-20 last year. With all that has been written about the improved toughness that this team has, this game should provide the ultimate test of mental strength and toughness. For the Zags to win, the seniors need use the experience of the last two years and not try to force the issue on the offensive end.

Looking at the Match Ups: In Klay Thompson, the Cougs got one of the better shooters in the 2008 recruiting class. Thompson fits into Tony Bennett's system perfectly, and does an excellent job of getting open without the ball. It should be fun to watch see if the length and athleticism of Micah Downs can make life difficult for Thompson. In their victory over WSU, Pitt used Jermaine Dixon to bother Thompson throughout the game. Dixon is only 6'3, but he has the long arms like Micah that can really bother a shooter. Another great match up will take place in the paint. Josh Heytvelt will face his most physically daunting opponent of this young season when he guards Aron Baynes. The 6'11 Aussie uses his great strength to establish position on the block, and finishes very well around the hoop. Baynes had a field day last season against the Zags, but he did not have to worry about the injured Heytvelt. Both of these guys are playing at an extremely high level, and it should be a pleasure to watch them battle.

The Final Prediction: Based on their play this season, it seems fair to say that the Cougs have become the type of the program that can reload as opposed to rebuild. WSU still plays with great intensity on the defensive end, and they have a system that can bother any of the top teams in the country. However, after losing the last two years, the Zags have an extra incentive heading into this game. There is no way that Pargo and Bouldin go a combined 3-20 again, and with a healthy Josh Heytvelt and Steven Gray, the Zags should emerge with a 70-58 win.

Future Zag Sam Dower Drops 22 in Losing Effort

The 2009 commit from Osseo, Minnesota kicked off his senior season last night against Henry Sibley High School. Sibley is one of the best teams in the state and is loaded with talent that includes four players 6'7'' or taller, including a 7 footer.

Dower's Osseo Orioles lost 64-51 but it was not without a fantastic effort from Sam Dower (right). The athletic big man had 22 points and 11 boards in the loss. According to reports, Dower was not dominant in the paint against the huge Sibley lineup. He instead got a majority of his points on fast breaks and in transition. Dower is known for his ability to run the floor and he showed that last night. He was also able to capitalize on put backs from the offensive glass.

The result wasn't what Sam wanted as Osseo fell but his versatility really shined last night. The fact that he already has good body control and good hands is a very positive thing for Gonzaga fans. Typically, big men take time to perfect body control but it looks like Sam will be able to come in right away and contribute. Good luck the rest of the way, Sam.