Gonzaga came into the season unranked, and I famously (ok, not so famously) called them the most overrated program of the decade a week or so ago. But they went into the Breslin Center last night and had a 5 point lead at the half before finally succumbing 75-71. So then, the question must become, is this the Gonzaga team that will finally break through?
Well for one, it would be folly to project a season of results based on just one game. As has been proved time and time before, literally anything can happen over the course of one basketball game.
Michigan State had a rough night from beyond the arc last night, going just 3-11 (27.3%), which is well below their 2009 season average of 35.4%. It’s also below what Gonzaga gave up last year (35.1%), although as we have examined before, that number is largely irrelevant.
The big issue here is that Michigan State turned it over 20 times. Last year, their TO% and Gonzaga’s forced TO% were both around 20%, so this was obviously an outlier. Rather than Gonzaga forcing these turnovers, it was likely a product of careless play by Michigan State.
Another big reason why this game was so close is a major stylistic difference. Michigan State doesn’t take a lot of threes. At all. Their 3PA/FGA was 308th in all of college basketball last year. But, Michigan State made less than 50% of their twos last year, and when that is the main source of your offense it can be difficult to score in the halfcourt. Especially against Gonzaga, who had the best 2 point defense in the land last year.
I think this Gonzaga team deserves to be ranked, but they will likely fall prey to the same types of teams as they always have, and are due for another early NCAA Tournament flame out.