Gonzaga Bulldogs: Three Thoughts On Gonzaga-SMU

SMU Mustangs
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Butler Bulldogs
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1. I can’t remember a Gonzaga team with more offensive weapons. It feels like Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos have been on this team forever, and they make a scary backcourt before adding in the rest of the guards. Kyle Dranginis is a dangerous shooter, and Josh Perkins came in and played with a lot of confidence for a true freshman.

Byron Wesley is a very good player, and his ability to attack of the dribble gives the offense a dynamic it has missed in the past, but I’m not sure about his fit on this team. Wesley seemed to slow down the flow of the offense a bit, and he may take the ball out of the hands of Pangos and Wiltjer too often. That being said, once Few figures out Wesley’s role he will provide an important change of pace for the Zags offense.

Kyle Wiltjer has some Kelly Olynyk potential. Playing in a program much better suited to his talents than Kentucky was, Wiltjer was just as, if not more, important than Pangos to Gonzaga’s offense against the Mustangs. His ability to shoot, pass, and put the ball on the floor out to the three-point line will make him a force to be reckoned with. Add in Przemek Karnowski and Damontis Sabonis (more on him in a minute), and this is one of the most loaded teams Few has ever had.

2. Damontas Sabonis is a problem. I haven’t seen most of the elite freshmen, but it’s hard for me to believe that he’s not going to be in the top ten or so by the end of the season. Despite being limited by foul trouble, the freshman finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds.

He was active on both ends, and also has room for big immediate improvement. He didn’t look fully comfortable with his teammates or surroundings, and he definitely favored his stronger left hand a little too much, but you can tell those are transitional issues- these problems belie a high IQ player (his passing and movement off the ball show how well he knows the game).

Sabonis is a McDonald’s All-American level talent, and he may be the piece that makes this Gonzaga team a legitimate national factor this season.

3. I’m hesitant to overreact to one road game to start the season, but I think the preseason optimism about SMU may have been too much.

The offense against Gonzaga was predicated on a lot of 1-on-1 and pick and roll stuff, not surprisingly it looked like an offense designed for NBA talent. SMU doesn’t have enough of that to be successful playing the way played in Spokane.

Nic Moore is a very good player, but probably not quite good enough to dominate consistently. Keith Frazier could start to live up to his high school plaudits, and Ben Moore had 22 in the opener, so there are some possibilities for SMU.

But unless they find more shooting, or more effective ways to leverage their athleticism into good shots, they will be fighting just to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. That would be a big disappointment for a team expected by many to breakout this season.