Thursday, December 11, 2008

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..


Anonymous said...

Love the post from the cougar fan. It is great to get a taste of the game from someone who doesn't bleed for the Zags. You guys should think about instituting some blog bets especially when the WCC games come around. Put simply you bet with the rival blog site on the game and the winner gets to post on the losers site. It sets up some good banter between teams and heats up the good old fashioned rivalries. I have seen it done on other sites and turns out pretty cool. Thanks for the good work guys.

Anonymous said...

good to see you come around nuss, good to see

Franklin Pierce said...

impossible is nothing. 70 points. go zags.

nuss said...

Like I said, I always thought you guys had a pretty awesome team this year, and knew it would take a pretty special performance for the Cougs to win.

I just hope the Zags don't get bored once WCC play rolls around, since there's only one team in the conference that can even think about competing with you. Tough to stay sharp in that environment when you can get away with a lot of stuff and still destroy people.

Oh, and about the whole Pac-10/WCC thing that was going on at my blog? Gonzaga would absolutely be the favorites to win the Pac-10 right now. You'd probably lose 2-3 games, but you'd be my bet to do it.