Mark Few and the Gonzaga Basketball team has enjoyed the best winning percentage of any team in the country over the last few years. Since their magical run to the elite in 1999, Gonzaga has consistently ranked as the best mid-major (though they have never gotten as close to a title as Butler). Few and his team, however, have enjoyed this position for long enough that they are no longer Cinderella and will no longer enjoy the dominance they once did.
Last night's lost to San Diego State is exactly what I'm talking about. The Zags used to play elite competition to build their resume and prove their worth. Now, other teams are scheduling them for the very same reason.
Looking to build his program's reputation, Steve Fisher, head coach of SDSU, scheduled Mark Few's Bulldogs. Last year Fisher's Aztecs were pummeled in their "Tip Off Marathon" game and never made it back to the national radar. This year, they beat Gonzaga and have one quality win on their resume.
The upset special is no more
The Gonzaga teams of the early 2000s (and most upstart teams) tend to live and die by the three. The three-point line is the great equalizer and allows less talented teams, who shoot lights out, to overcome their size disadvantages and lack of speed getting to the basket.
If you look at the Gonzaga teams of the past few years and the game last night, you'll notice a marked lack of three-point shooting. Sure, they shoot the ball decently, but they have begun to rely on more traditional offensive sets and styles.
They have one superstar, which is typical for a Gonzaga team. Steven Gray is certainly a very solid player, but this team doesn't seem to have the balance necessary (I'm just not sold on Robert Sacre) to make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament. Sacre was outplayed last night by Billy White, who dropped 30 points on the 'Zags.
Last night's game was not supposed to be one of the most difficult non-conference games. Games against Memphis, Baylor, Illinois and Kansas State all headline their non-conference schedule. Elias Harris may have hurt his Achilles last night and would be a huge loss for the Zags.
I expect them to roll through the WCC, again, but I don't believe they will surprise or really beat any of their big non-conference foes.
Now, I know Mark Few is the kind of coach that improves his team from the beginning of the season to the end. That said, watching their performance last night made me question the character of the team a little bit. Usually the 'Zags are the hungrier team and they play with a chip on their shoulder. Last night, that fire wasn't evident. If they keep that up, look for another early tourney exit.