Monday, December 1, 2008

Breaking Down Gonzaga's Old Spice Championship Game

It is safe to classify the Old Spice Classic as a tremendous experience for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. In one of the better performances I have seen from a GU squad in the last couple of years, Gonzaga defeated Tennessee 83-74 in the Old Spice Classic championship game. The match up between these top 15 squads had the intensity of a NCAA Tournament game, as both teams went back and forth in the first half. The game stayed tight until the 10:00 minute mark of the second half, but over the next five minutes, Gonzaga built an 18 point lead. Tennessee was able to cut the deficit to six points in the last couple minutes, but Gonzaga regained their poise and emerged as champions.

Positives to take from the game:

  • Over the course of this tournament, Jeremy Pargo proved himself to be one of the top PG's in the nation. Against the Vols, Pargo controlled the pace and tempo of the game, while putting together a near flawless performance. In previous seasons, Jeremy has shown the ability to take over a game on the offensive end, but never has truly demonstrated whether he can lead and run a team. However, this season Pargo has transformed himself into the ultimate floor general. With all the great weapons that this team has, Pargo has embraced the role of provider, as he dished out seven assists to go along with 10 points against UT. There is no question that he deserved to be named the Old Spice Classic MVP, and I see no reason why his tremendous play wont continue throughout the season.
  • I would like to formally welcome back the Steven Gray we all grew to love last season. After beginning the season in a 3/18 shooting slump from behind the 3 point line, Gray hit 4/6 from behind the arc. When that first 3 went in last night, it was clear that a huge burden had been lifted off of Steven, and from that point on he began to play more carefree and loose. This led to improved effort on the defensive end, and strong aggressive play on the offensive end. Steven is vital to the success of this team, and I consider him to be a 6th starter. It was such a relief and good feeling to see him regain his confidence, and I expect to see much more of this Steven Gray throughout this season.
  • How impressive has the play of Meech Goodson, Rob Sacre, and Ira Brown been this season? While we know what the starting five and Steven can bring to the table, the play of these three guys has been nothing short of tremendous. After great contributions from Ira and Rob in the first two games of the tournament, it was Meech's turn to shine against the Vols. While his impact does not show up in the stat line, it is clear the impact he is having on this team. I loved watching Meech jaw with Wayne Chism and Bobby Maze, and he is a great demonstration of the toughness that this team plays with.
  • TKR will beginning focusing on the 'four factors' of winning basketball games that are shown in the graph below. For an explanation of the four factors it measures, click here. In last night's physical match up, the Zags struggled on the boards but they were able to curb that negative effect by shooting the ball well and getting to the line well. The Zags also handled the ball well against the pressure of the Vols and had fewer turnovers per possession. Winning three out of these four factors, it is easy to see how Gonzaga was able to extend their lead as much as they did and eventually win the ball game.

While it's hard to imagine any negatives out of the great performance over the weekend, a few things did jump out at me.
  • Last night, this team reminded me why I can never feel comfortable until all the time is off the clock. The reason this game was so close towards the end was because of the poor time management and poor play once the lead had built up to 18 points. The first thing I want to examine was the time management. Just off the top of my head, I can remember ill-advised shots from Bouldin and Pargo early in the shot clock. When you are up by 18 points, the goal is to run your offense while also running out the clock. However, the Zags continued to shoot with 15 or 20 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Many of these were deep 3's that the guys could have taken at any point in the shot clock. Great teams need to know how to play with a lead, and hopefully it is something that the Zags can develop over the course of the season.
  • If I'm Coach Few, I spend this week reviewing how to rebound when playing zone defense. I understand that Tennessee has some great athletes, but there is no excuse for the Zags to be out-rebounded 50-26. With the height and length that Josh, Austin, Micah, Ira, and Rob provide at the bottom of the zone, no opponent should dominate the boards against this Gonzaga team. This needs to be fixed before we take on good rebounding teams like UConn, Arizona, and of course the rematch with UT later in the season.
Winning the Old Spice Classic is a tremendous achievement for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The teams has already been rewarded for this performance, as they have moved up to #5 in both polls. The key for this team and the coaching staff is to continue to improve. As the ESPN announcers mentioned, this team is only playing at 70% of its ultimate potential. They must keep up the hard worked and understand that the season is a marathon not a sprint. The talent and leadership is clearly there, and it is up to everyone affiliated with the team to build on this tremendous start. This starts on Saturday with a big game against the Indiana Hoosiers in Indianapolis.


Anonymous said...

you should make the colors in the graph represent the team's colors

ZagBell said...

Ya, we are still in the experimental stages working with these stats but hopefully we can get that fixed.

The data should provide a nice and often ignored look at stats that often times point which way a game turns out. Hopefully the Zags continue winning in these categories.