Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gonzaga Pre-Game Analysis

Opening Thoughts: With the nail-biter against Arizona over, who’s next?... the towering Bulldogs of Gonzaga. Gonzaga will easily be the biggest team Wisconsin faces this season, making MSU look small. This game, along with the Duke and Arizona games, will be litmus test games to see where this team is at. They’ve passed the test against the ultra-athletic team, now they have the ultra-big team. This is not to say Gonzaga is not beatable, as Colorado showed in the first game of the tournament. Colorado has a Princeton offense that is very similar to the Swing, only devoid of a post presence. Gonzaga struggled with it until they aggressively asserted their size advantage. Luckily for us, Nankivil, Leuer, and Berggren are all better post defenders than anyone Colorado had, and Ryan Evans probably is too.

Sorry if this one isn't as in-depth or seems rushed. I wanted to churn this one out before I went to bed so I didn't have to try to finish it in the morning before work.

Forums to Visit:

GU Nation (Scout)
GU Boards Independent

Gonzaga Probable Rotation:
*G – 5’11” SO Demetri Goodson (3.8 PPG, 1.6 APG, 1.3 RPG)
*G – 6’5” SR Matt Bouldin (13.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 42% 3FG)
*G – 6’5” JR Steven Gray (9.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1 SPG)
*F – 6’8” FR Elias Harris (14.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG in first 3 games)
*C – 7’0” RS SO Robert Sacre (16.3 PPG, 7 RPG, 1.7 BPG in first 3 games)
F – 6’11” FR Kelly Olynyk (4.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG in first 3 games)
G – 6’0” FR G.J. Vilarino (4.7 PPG in first 3 games)
C – 7’5” SR Will Foster (2.1 RPG, 1.0 PPG)
G – 6’4” RS FR Grant Gibbs (3.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG in first 3 games)
F – 6’5” FR Manny Arop (3.7 RPG in first 3 games)

Last season they played at a pace of 68 possessions per game, very close to last season’s Marquette and UW-M teams. I’m certain they will play man-to-man defense, with strong defensive rebounding, but not many steals or forced turnovers, a la Wisconsin. If they are struggling in the man-to-man, they may switch to zone like they did against Colorado.

They are returning 39.1% of their minutes, 36.7% of their rebounding, and 35.2% of their scoring from last season. They return a lowly 4 upperclassmen, one of which is not in their rotation. They start a true freshman, sophomore, and redshirt sophomore, and their bench has 3 freshmen and 1 redshirt freshman.

Key Players:

Matt Bouldin – Bouldin is the senior leader for the team. The mop-headed 6’5” guard is ridiculously efficient offensively, with a 119.3 rating last season. He got it by shooting 42% from 3, 54% from 2, 74% from the line, and not turning it over much.

Steven Gray – Another big guard for the Zags was even more efficient than Bouldin last season, with a rating of 120.3. He did it by never turning it over (11.4%, or 68th best), and shooting a great 58% from 2. Together, he and Bouldin may be the best guard combo we see all season.

Robert Sacre – Sacre is a force inside. He is big and shoots well, 64% from the field and 72% from the line. He also doesn’t turn it over, averaging just 1 turnover per game so far.

What Gonzaga is really good at:

1. Shooting the rock. They were 39% from 3, 53% from 2, and 72% from the line last season, combining for the 6th best eFG% in the nation, 55.2%. This season they have dipped by a tenth of a percent in their effective FG% so far.

2. Getting to the line. So far this season, Gonzaga has had 53 free throw attempts to every 100 field goal attempts, good for 31st.

3. Protecting the Defensive Glass. They have allowed a stingy 26.3% this season (48th) and 31.1% last season (100th).

4. Forcing bad or contested shots. This season and last, Gonzaga has been near the top at defensive 2-point shooting percentage at just under 40%. They were the best last season and 47th this season so far.

5. Not turning it over. They were right up there with us last season in protecting the ball (16.1%). This season they are at 19.7%.

What Gonzaga is really bad at:

1. Offensive Rebounding. They don’t attack the glass, grabbing only 31.6% of their misses this season (207th) and the same last season (222nd).

2. Defending the 3. Last season, Gonzaga allowed a bad 35% from 3 (231st) and 35.7% this season (212nd).

3. Free Throw Shooting. So far this season, Gonzaga is shooting a below average 65% from the line (239th). Last season they were 72%.

Relative efficiency:

When Gonzaga has the ball: Gonzaga scored a great 1.18 PPP last season and 1.09 in their first 3 games, while UW gave up 0.77 in the first 3 games and 0.95 last season.

When UW has the ball: Gonzaga gave up a great 0.91 last season and 0.88 in their first 3 games, while UW scored 1.03 in their first 3 games and 1.14 last season.

Pace: Gonzaga played at 68 possessions per game last season and 78 in their first 3 games compared to UW’s 64 in their first 2 games and 60 last season.

My expectations:

1. Both teams protect their defensive glass. Arizona and UW will not allow more than 33% of the misses on defense to be grabbed by the offensive team.

2. Leuer, Nankivil, Berggren, and Evans hold their bigs in check. Sacre, Harris, and Olynyk to combine for less than 23 points.

3. Hughes has another big game, scoring at least 12 points. Hughes is significantly quicker than Goodson, Bouldin, and Vilarino, leading to him attacking the rim at will, racking up lay-ups, assists, and free throw attempts.

4. The Badgers score on the Zags inside, shooting better than 44% from 2-land. I like our bigs and guards to shoot better than the average team against the Bulldogs interior defense.

My Prediction: I’m not sure why, but I’m liking the Badgers in a heartbreaker for the Zags, 70-67 in a 66-possession game.

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