Last season was a very interesting season for Matt Bouldin. Coming off a very impressive freshman season, it seemed as if Bouldin was destined to be the next great Gonzaga guard. During the summer he played for the USA U-19 team, and he had emerged as a great passer and a crafty scorer. Looking at the statistics, he led the team in scoring at 12.6 pts per game, and he averaged 2.9 assists per game, it would seem that Matt had a terrific season. Yet looking back on the past season, I must admit that I was not blown away by Matt's performance. Perhaps I had set unreasonable expectations after his great freshman year. But for whatever reason, last season left a bitter taste in my mouth (it may just be that Davidson performance is still lingering with me). It should be interesting to see if this summer Matt can make some great strides in his game. There is not doubt the talent is there, and he should benefit from staying in Spokane this summer.
Strengths: It is rare to see a guard at the college level with the court vision that Matt Bouldin has. After nearly every game, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at some of the passes Matt makes. One great example of that was in the San Diego game. Late in the game, Kuso set a screen for Matt at the free throw line, and right when Matt came over the screen, he delivered a perfect pass to a rolling Kuso. It was truly one of the prettiest passes I have ever seen. While Matt is certainly capable of the breathtaking pass, he also does an excellent job delivering the easier passes. Matt always seems to make the right decision with the ball, and usually puts his teammates in a good position to score. Matt also possesses a terrific basketball IQ. Matt is not the quickest or strongest guard you will see, however he continually puts himself in a position to succeed. Going back to the San Diego game, not many guards in the nation would have made that terrific back cut at the end of the game to secure the win. Matt also utilizes his great size in the post (although I would like to see it even more) to score on smaller guards. He is very good at reading his defender and knowing when to attack the hoop, or when to settle for the jump shot. Because of his great knowledge for the game, Matt is able to makeup for his lack of great athleticism.
Room for improvement: The main weakness with Matt is his shooting ability. Last season he shot only 46% from the field, and a paltry 36% from beyond the 3 point line. There is no denying Matt's ability to score, but to become a more complete offensive player he needs to raise those percentages. A true shooting guard should shoot over 50% from the field, and between 40-45% from the 3 point line. Obviously Matt will never be a pure shooter like a Stephen Curry, but he can certainly improve on his current percentages. Imagine how difficult it would be to guard Matt if he had a consistent jump shot. He would be a nightmare matchup, as he can post up most guards, he can drive by them, and with a consistent jumper, defenders would not be able to give him any space. The other issue for Matt last season was his consistency. This was especially true toward the end of the season, when the only consistency he had was being consistently poor. Many Zag fans think that Matt vanished in the bigger games, but that is not true. Matt had 21 against Tennessee, 19 against UCONN, and a career high 26 against Utah. The question is, where did this form go at the end of the season? Except for his performance against St. Mary's, I would be hard pressed to find a game where Matt really played his best. If Matt can bring a consistent performance to every game, that will be huge for the Zags success throughout the season. I'm not saying that we need him to score 20 points per game. But what we really need from Matt is around 14 pts, 5 rebound, and 3-4 assists per game.
Projected Role: I would be truly stunned if Matt was not a starter at the beginning of next season. It will be interesting to see whether he starts at the SG alongside either Micah or Austin at the SF, or if he starts at the SF alongside Gray at the 2. With so many weapons on the wings this season, it is imperative that Matt delivers a consistent performance from game to game. I believe he will, and I think we will see Matt emerge as one of the best play-makers in the nation. It is important for Matt to not settle for the jumper, and to utilize his size advantage and take his defender into the post or off the dribble, and finish at the hoop. If he does that, then his shooting percentage should rise significantly. With all the weapons that GU has, Matt should have great success at allowing all his teammates to be in the best position to score. His passing and basketball IQ will be vital to the success of the team.
Summer Assignment: My main assignment for Matt is to get in the gym and take 100's of shots per day. I truly believe that if he can improve on his jumper then everything else will come into place. A better jumper will allow for more drives to the hoop, more open shots for his teammates, and more consistency on a game to game basis. Matt has such great size and strength for his position, and has the potential to be a great guard at GU. Look for this to be the breakout season we were all expecting from Matt as a sophomore.