We are four games into the season, and the Gonzaga Bulldogs seem to be taking a step forward in every single game. It’s exactly what we wanted to see out of this group, and should be very concerning to the rest of the country.
- The scoreline may not suggest it, but Bellarmine ended up being a nice little test for Gonzaga. The Knights didn’t roll over (well, at least not in the first half) for the top team in the country as they got out of the gates looking to play physical basketball despite giving up a lot of size and talent to their hosts. Bellarmine ran some very nice offense, if not unusual with essentially no post-ups or ball screens, that relied on constant off-ball movement to create quality scoring opportunities. They also competed hard on the glass and challenged the Zags to outwork them. Kudos to Scott Davenport on a great job coaching up his team.
- Early in the game, the Zags found themselves in a position where they had to cycle through several actions in a possession to generate a shot they wanted with Bellarmine working hard to take away the middle of the floor. They haven’t been forced to do that too often this season, and it was good to see them problem solve and figure out the most effective way to break down how Bellarmine’s defense rather than simply settling for jumpers.
- Hunter Sallis has exhibited a great feel on defense over the last two games, particularly in reading cutting lanes, and he pairs that with even better hands. His defense is his ticket to getting more minutes. His block to breakaway dunk sequence in the second half was spectacular, and a great example of how special he can be.
- Even when Chet bites on a fake and leaves his feet, which is something he could stand to improve, he has an incredible ability to recover and still affect the shot or follow the ball and then get the block. What he does on the defensive end, and particularly in protecting the paint, is not normal. He’s a rare talent and has plenty of Defensive Player of the Year awards in his future.
- Sticking with Chet for a second, his defensive prowess is his headlining talent but he already has a mature offensive mind. It would be easy for him to get caught up with getting his buckets, especially after a 2-point outing against Texas and his competition for top pick in the NBA Draft next summer in Paulo Banchero getting off to a strong start for Duke. That Chet looks to hit cutters when he’s in position to score himself in the post speaks to his basketball character. He already has a good grasp of when he needs to be aggressive and when he should facilitate.
- Once again, it was Gonzaga’s defensive pressure that blew the game open over the closing minutes of the first half. Bellarmine didn’t have the horses to keep this a close game, but they were also running really quality offensive sets and were clearly well-drilled for this game. Despite that, Gonzaga’s defense totally wore them down (as you would expect them to do). It’s hard to maintain the level of execution needed to stay in the game against a squad that can suffocate you for a sustained period of time.
- Julian Strawther’s scoring versatility is extremely impressive. He can score at all levels of the floor and as he continues to develop, will be an extremely useful bail out option when plays break down and the shot clock is running down. He knows how to create a shot quickly and doesn’t need much help to do it. He’s going to set a new career high in scoring several times this season.
- Some of the passes that Andrew Nembhard unleashes legitimately make my jaw drop. He has like 2-3 per game, whereas most guards may have 2-3 in a season. He’s got unreal vision and timing.
- With his soft touch around the rim and his ability to step out to the perimeter and knock down shots, Ben Gregg is going to be a problem for opposing teams over the next few years.
- The Zags are ready for Vegas.