Przemek Karnowski in action vs. South Dakota.
With Thanksgiving coming up, Gonzaga basketball and all you Zag-Nuts have a lot to be thankful for because of Gonzaga's strong start to the season. With three dominating wins in which the ending was never in doubt, the Zags have looked every bit like a Final Four team.
But with the Old Spice Classic starting on Thursday, the Zags have a grand opportunity to showcase their talent on ESPN at a reasonable time and not at their usual midnight ET tipoff time.
This week's Zig Zag Report will take a quick look at last week's win over South Dakota before delving into the Old Spice Classic. The favored Gonzaga Bulldogs look to win the tournament for the first time since 2008.
Elias Harris scored 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the win over South Dakota.
Once again, the Zags offense and defense came together and outmatched the South Dakota Coyotes 96-58 to improve to 3-0. They did this behind senior forward Elias Harris' outstanding performance. He scored 16 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds.
The defense again kept their opponents to below 40 percent from the field. The Coyotes struggled all night to get an offensive flow going and committed 20 turnovers. Junior point guard David Stockton snatched six steals to lead the Bulldogs.
Also, the Zags dominated the glass, out-rebounding South Dakota +38. In fact, Gonzaga had as many offensive rebounds (19) as the Coyotes had total rebounds. Gonzaga took advantage of the second-chance opportunities as South Dakota fell behind early and never came close.
Off the bench, freshman phenom Przemek Karnowski made a massive impact as he scored 20 points, on 9-for-10 shooting, to lead all Bulldogs. With that performance, Karnowski is shooting an astonishing 73.3 percent from the field on the season.
But Gonzaga's biggest weakness showed once more. The team shot a horrendous 26.7 percent from the free-throw line on 4-of-15 shooting.
The Zags can get away with poor shooting in blowout games, but when they finally find themselves in a close one, they will need to make their free throws.
Or they will be in big trouble.
On Thanksgiving night, the Bulldogs will face the Clemson Tigers in the first round of the Old Spice Classic.
The Zags won this tournament back in 2008 when they beat Tennessee in the final. That season was also the last time the Bulldogs made it to the Sweet Sixteen, where they lost to the eventual national champions, North Carolina.
But before Bulldogs can take their second title at the Classic, they must first face another unbeaten team in the Clemson Tigers (2-0).
Clemson looks to be Gonzaga's biggest test yet as this will be the first non-home game of the year for the Zags. They will also be up against Clemson's tough frontcourt of seniors Milton Jennings and Devin Booker. Both Jennings and Booker shoot over 64 percent from the field.
What will most likely lead Gonzaga to victory in this matchup will be rebounding.
Gonzaga currently ranks 24th in the nation with 44 RPG, while Clemson ranks 224th with 34 RPG. If the Zags can win the battle at around +10, then the nation's top offense—the Bulldogs also rank 1st with 94.3 PPG—will blow them away.
In the second round, the Zags will play either Oklahoma or UTEP. It's hard to say who will come out victorious in their game as both the Sooners and Miners are evenly matched.
Neither team shoots very well from the field, but Oklahoma has done well rebounding, so it may be able to challenge Gonzaga in that aspect. No matter what, Gonzaga should be able to beat both teams as its talent and depth will prove to be too much.
As for the title game, there is a good chance that Gonzaga could have a rematch with West Virginia. The top half of the bracket is not the strongest, with West Virginia and Davidson being the two favorites to make it to the final.
As long as the Bulldogs don't falter, they should be able to take care of business. They have already proven that they can handle West Virginia, and Davidson doesn't have enough weapons to slow down Gonzaga.
Early season tournaments are always a great moment for the top teams and their players to shine on a national stage.
Like what the Maui Invitational did for Adam Morrison in 2005, this year's Old Spice Classic can give the Zags the chance to show that they should be considered favorites to reach their first-ever Final Four.
I expect that Elias Harris will show NBA scouts that he has the talent and skills to be a lottery pick. I also expect Przemek Karnowski to score with ease as opponents struggle to contain him in the paint.
The backcourt, led by Kevin Pangos and hot shooter Gary Bell Jr., will be a handful as the guards will make big shot after big shot.
After this tournament, people will see that Gonzaga may be the deepest team in the nation, especially in the frontcourt, with Kelly Olynyk making his season debut after serving a three-game suspension.
Final prediction: Gonzaga wins the 2012 Old Spice Classic and improves to 6-0 on the season.