Gonzaga Basketball: Why the Zags Are a Threat to Make a Final Four Run

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Gonzaga Basketball: Why the Zags Are a Threat to Make a Final Four Run
Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE
Mark Few's Zags, led by Kevin Pangos (4), Gary Bell Jr. (5) and Elias Harris (pictured right), are poised to make a deep tournament run come March.

Gonzaga's great start this season has provided a fantastic look at what will make them a Final Four threat this season.

Gonzaga is built to win this season, and through the first three games, many lessons have been learned about this team that make them a significant threat to win in March.

One thing we have learned about Gonzaga is that they have an incredible drive to win.  They do not just want to leave the court with a victory.  They want to make a statement.

As a result, Gonzaga ranks third in the nation in points-per-game with 93.5.

This winning mentality was on display in Gonzaga's 34-point thrashing of West Virginia during the ESPN Marathon Tip-Off last Monday.

Even when the game is well in hand, Gonzaga continues to lay it on.  This stems from problems last season in putting games away in the last five minutes.  This Bulldogs team will not settle for holding on towards the last two minutes.  Instead, this team wants the game to be over and done with before the last five.

One of the keys to Gonzaga's success this season is their incredible depth.  

Gonzaga's first man off the bench is freshman center Przemek Karnowski.  The Polish big man would likely start for most teams in the country.  He, however, backs up equally talented center Sam Dower.

Karnowski is one of the great stories coming out of the early parts of this season.  Many wondered how he would adjust to college basketball after having only ever played in Poland.  His 16 points per game speak towards his scoring prowess that has certainly transferred to his play at GU.

James Snook-US PRESSWIRE
Przemek Karnowski has been a standout for Gonzaga this season.

 

If you haven't heard of Karnowski until now, keep your eye on him, as he is a special type of talent. 

Mark Few's depth exceeds just Karnowski and is evident throughout his bench. This type of depth is envied by most other coaches. Players including junior point guard David Stockton, Mike Hart, a defensive specialist and three-point specialist Drew Barham, who can be inserted into the game to great effect.

Another scary thought for those who will face Gonzaga this season is that one of their best players, Kelly Olynyk, has yet to play.  Imagine this team when they return a player that Mark Few has characterized as one of the best front court players on the team.

The biggest plus for Mark Few is that these are just the players coming off the bench.

To see why many, including ESPN's Myron Medcalf ,Seth Greenberg and Bracketologist Joe Lunardi, are saying Gonzaga could make a Final Four run, just look at their starting five.

Starting in the backcourt, it is obvious that sophomores Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. are ready to pick up where they left off last season.  

The two combined for 28 points a game last year, and many wondered how they would fare in their sophomore campaigns.  

Both have impressed and staved off any talk of a sophomore slump.  

Gary Bell Jr. has been particularly impressive, which is no knock of Pangos.  Bell scored 15 in the win over WVU and 16 today against South Dakota.  More than anything, he seems to have found his place in this team with incredible grace.  

James Snook-US PRESSWIRE
Gary Bell Jr. has picked up where he left off last season with a sensational start to his sophomore season.

 

The beauty of being Gary Bell  is that he can let the game come to him and benefit from the vast majority of defensive attention be placed on Pangos.

Guy Landry Edi has also looked solid this season.  Edi seems to have recovered fully from a nagging knee injury from last season.

The biggest impact that Edi has had is that he has become a more complete player.  Last season, Edi was more of an athletic player with raw talent that was only really seen on occasion. 

This season, Edi has been just as athletic, but we have also seen him pass well, knock down jump shots and pull down rebounds.  If Edi, probably the weakest member of Gonzaga's starting five, can continue this type of play, Gonzaga will be incredibly dangerous this season.

Finally, we look at Gonzaga's senior leader: Elias Harris.  Harris has been every bit as impressive as expected this season.  Mark Few has given Harris limited minutes to protect him for the season's grind, but in those minutes, Harris has shined.

Harris has scored in double figures in all three games this season.  The most impressive stat, however, is that he pulled down 18 rebounds in the game against South Dakota.  That number is consistent with the rebounding ability that makes Harris Gonzaga's most valuable player.

If Gonzaga can maintain this level of intensity, tap into their deep bench and rely on their stellar starters, they will be a sincere threat to make a deep run in March.

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