Gonzaga Basketball: Bulldogs' 5 Keys to a Successful Postseason
Gonzaga basketball reigns supreme in the WCC after winning the championship over BYU on Tuesday.
The highs and lows of the WCC tournament showed the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the Bulldogs.
With great play from the frontcourt and a generally solid performance from the backcourt, Gonzaga is heading into the NCAA tournament on a good foot.
However, if Gonzaga cannot get the best play out of its stars, the Bulldogs could make a quick exit this season.
Get Kevin Pangos Going Again
Kevin Pangos is in a slump and has been for several weeks now.
In the three games in the WCC tournament, he scored 28 points. Fifteen of those points, however, came at the free-throw line, and the majority of those were during junk time at the end of games.
Pangos has not exhibited the aggressiveness that has made him a top-tier guard over the past three seasons.
Whether this lack of explosiveness has been due to lingering injuries or a dearth of confidence after his recent shooting troubles, Gonzaga needs him to start taking a larger role in the offense if it is going to have any success in the NCAA tournament.
Continue Frontcourt Dominance
Sam Dower Jr. and Przemek Karnowski have been a dynamic duo in the frontcourt for Gonzaga all season long, but in the WCC tournament, they stepped their games up to a whole different level.
Dower was named the tournament MVP, and he averaged 18.3 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game over the span of the tournament.
Karnowski was great in his own right. He was arguably the most important player on the floor against Santa Clara, as his 16 points and 12 rebounds fueled the Gonzaga victory.
What separates Gonzaga from most mid-majors in the NCAA tournament is its ability to play a frontcourt that can stack up against the big men from high-major schools.
The Bulldogs will need these two starters to continue to avoid foul trouble and dominate the paint when on the floor as they venture into the postseason.
Leadership from David Stockton
I have been a critic of David Stockton down the stretch of this season, but I have to say that I have been impressed with his play over the last three games.
He hit the game-winning layup, but his play has far exceeded just that one moment.
The senior guard and son of legendary point guard John Stockton scored 33 points, but most importantly, he dished out 15 assists.
The offense was rolling with him at the helm, and he truly stepped up his game defensively on the ball.
However, Santa Clara took advantage of his inability to fight through screens and was able to force switches and mismatches.
Gonzaga could use Stockton to its greatest advantage against opponents in the NCAA tournament, but it will have to design a better scheme to protect the defense against having to switch based on Stockton’s inability to fight through screens.
Utilize Specialty Players
Gonzaga has three players who exhibit specialties that coach Mark Few has been able to call on this postseason.
Drew Barham is a three-point specialist who can stretch the floor against opposing big men.
Angel Nunez is an athletic power forward who can add an instant spark on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Gerard Coleman is an energizer bunny on offense with the ability to take the ball to the basket past any defender.
The most impressive aspect of Few’s coaching job in the WCC tournament was his use of these specialty players in the rotation. Barham, Nunez and Coleman utilized their strengths to support the starters and fuel Gonzaga in crucial moments.
These three players can make an incredible impact if they are used correctly in the Big Dance.
Avoid Rebounding Disaster
At this point in the season, I am content with losing the rebounding battle.
The WCC tournament showed Gonzaga’s inability to rebound the basketball at a consistent rate. The Bulldogs were out-rebounded 87 to 109 in the three games they played.
As always, beyond Dower and Karnowski, nobody consistently manages to pull down boards.
If Gonzaga has a hard time rebounding against these lesser frontcourts of the WCC, bigger, more physical opponents in the tournament could cause the team considerable trouble.
In the NCAA tournament, the best the Bulldogs can hope to do is avoid a disaster in the rebounding department.
Gonzaga does not need to dominate a team on the boards to win, but if the Bulldogs can rebound evenly with an opponent, they will have a better chance to advance.