Gonzaga hits Texas – What we learned and what it could mean in March

The top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs recorded an impressive 86-74 victory over the No. 5 Texas Longhorns in Spokane, Washington on Saturday night, with Mark Few’s team reinforcing its position as the men’s college basketball team to win one of the highly anticipated matchups of the opening week of the 2021-22 season. One day after UCLA destroyed Villanova in a top-5 thriller, Zags / Horns did not quite match the entertaining value or intensity of Bruins / Wildcats, but the way Gonzaga’s win played nonetheless had major implications as observers try to stack the national team’s game. title competitors. Gonzaga and Texas ’play will continue to serve as a national talking point, as both teams seem destined for deep March races – trips that could see them face each other again on the NCAA tournament stage.

With that in mind, ESPN’s college basketball team of Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway and Joe Lunardi weighed in on the better points of the Zags’ victory, including the performances of top Bulldogs Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren and the way forward for a Texas team laden with rookies who remain talented work in progress.

Gonzaga looked omnipotent on Saturday. What does this team look like last season’s Zags, based on what you’ve seen against Texas, and what’s different? Are the changes significant in terms of Gonzaga’s national title ambitions?

The Bulldogs did look omnipotent for much of the night and, to be sure, Texas helped make that happen to some degree. One good way to slow down the Zags offense is to make your own shots, but the Longhorns struggled to put together scores until they mounted a nice run in the second half.

Speaking of omnipotence, Timme (career high 37 points) was unstoppable. This is the part of Gonzaga that is the same as last season, of course, and it’s good to take the floor knowing that your outstanding scorer can reach 30-plus points while missing very few shots. The Bulldogs run their offense through Timme, and he doesn’t have to be in the paint to do what he does. He is comfortable giving dribbles and examining open shooters on the perimeter.

Another thing that is the same as last season is a rock-content guard game by Andrew Nembhard. He is the main generator of aid in this offense, and he will have many opportunities to fill those totals.

We assume Chet Holmgren will be something different this season even though the Zags didn’t need him to score against UT. Conversely, Iowa State transfer Rasir Bolton has made points and he seems to be doing well in Spokane. Really, Gonzaga’s defensive rebound against Texas was just fair. But with Timme, Nembhard, Holmgren and Bolton, this is a team that can win everything.

– John Gasaway

What did we learn about the dynamic front yard duo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren on Saturday night? How did Texas defend / attack them and is it a sign of things to come for the Zags?

I think the most important thing we’ve learned is that Timme is the favorite to win national player of the year in Las Vegas and the only unanimous pick on the Associated Press preseason All-America team for some reason. On that stage against a top five opponent on Saturday, he outscored everyone, including Holmgren, as he scored 22 points in the first half of a game against a Longhorns squad that had just 27 points at the break.

Holmgren (2 points, 5 rebounds) was mostly passive and timid in the game. He looked like a freshman playing in his first significant matchup. Very Mitchell pushed him off the block a few times in their fights for rebounds. He was scoreless in the first half. But I also think he helped Timme with his ability to play from the perimeter and pull defenders. Most teams would ignore a 7-foot camp out in the corner as the ball moves around the court. But Holmgren is a threat because of his shooting ability and ball handling skills. With about 1:35 to play in the first half, Holmgren took the pass, almost dripped the length of the court and dumped it in the post to Timme, who drew a foul. This is just a complicated task for any opponent. What great man are you trying to stop? Holmgren also shifted shots in defense in an effort that is likely to be more respected by the analytics than the raw numbers.

Holmgren also showed his defensive weaknesses, however. In the second half, Texas attacked him and did what they could to take him down. It worked. He had a bad problem in the second half. I think we’ll see more of that in the future. Teams will try to lure Holmgren and Timme away from the edge and pull those fouls out of the game, which is exactly what Texas did against Gonzaga in the second half. I’m not sure how many teams will be able to stop the two when they are together on the court. Although it was not a great offensive effort, Holmgren proved he could influence the game without scoring. Texas has always been slow to double Timme, despite his strong start, due to Holmgren’s presence. Timme was not perfect (see: four turnovers). But the skill around him will make it difficult to double him and that should also create opportunities for Holmgren and others.

It’s also clear that Mark Few does feel compelled to use them together. Holmgren will have to find ways to make an impact by playing alongside Timme. I also don’t think he should be consumed by that idea because there will be multiple stretches this season when only one of the two is on the floor. This however is Timme’s squad. That was clear in the win on Saturday.

– Myron Medcalf

There were big questions entering the season about what Chris Beard’s Texas rotation would look like and who could be the weird man / men out there. Did the Gonzaga game give answers?

Yes and no. On the one hand, we may not take a look at how Beard will hand out minutes until Vanderbilt handover Dylan Disu is fully healthy and ready for a game competition. He was slowly working out after undergoing knee surgery last February. Once he’s good to go, Disu will add a high-level rebounding ability to Texas ’outfield, as well as another player who can score on the inside.

Against Gonzaga, Beard was clearly looking for something to slow Timme down – and that’s proven by the mixing minutes. Christian Bishop started at 5, but there wasn’t much of a factor in the second half. Very Mitchell came off the bench to start the game, but started the second half down low. Timmy Allen and Brock Cunningham ended up playing most minutes from some of the outfield players, with Beard getting much smaller for stretches. Both Allen and Cunningham played more minutes on Saturday than they did in the season-opening win over Houston Baptist, so it will be a game-by-game trend to track.

On the perimeter, the surprise was Jase Febres from a minute perspective. Returners Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones, along with advanced Minnesota transfer Marcus Carr, were expected to win most of the minutes and that was the case – but Febres is not far behind. One of the best shooters on the team, Febres actually played more minutes than Jones on Saturday, with most of them coming in the second half as Texas cut into Gonzaga’s lead.

While Texas ’rotation will be examined throughout the season, it’s also worth noting that Mark Few has two five-star guards off the bench in Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis. There is no other team in the country that can say that. On Saturday, Hickman played an extended second-half role after scoring 11 points from the bench in the opening, while Sallis saw four first-half minutes against Texas. The development of the duo over the course of the season will be something to monitor.

– Jeff Borzello



Rasir Bolton narrowly gets the shot on time and banks it off a half-court to give the Zags a 20-point lead.

What are the likely Bracketological implications of this result for current 1-seed Gonzaga? For current 2-seed Texas? How is the NCAA election committee likely to analyze a November 13 result in March?

Gonzaga’s convincing victory does nothing but assert the Bulldogs as the nation’s top team. Loss may have caused an exchange of No. 1 general seeds – Kansas? UCLA? – but this is no longer the second week of the season. The Zags are entering a comfortable three-game stretch that they can’t lose before starting Thanksgiving Week tests against UCLA and Duke in Las Vegas.

As for Texas, the Longhorns went to Spokane as a 2-seed (No. 8 overall) but fall to 3-seed after their defeat. Obviously there’s enough time for the Horns to re-enter the conversation for a better seed, but Texas isn’t playing another meaningful game this month. Five straight cookies – North Colorado, San Jose State, Cal Baptist, Sam Houston and UT Rio Grande – will not move the needle.

The bottom line is that big November games matter, but only as one slice of a very big pie. For now, the top seeds remain Gonzaga, Kansas and UCLA in whatever order you prefer, plus Michigan. No change of starter, in other words. The Zags, as was the case last year, could very well be projected a 1-seed throughout the season. The committee will look at later results from work-in-progress teams like Texas.

– Joe Lunardi


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