Rushed Reactions: #2 Gonzaga 87, #7 Iowa 68

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 22nd, 2015


Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Gonzaga Rolled into the Sweet Sixteen Today in Seattle (USA Today Images)

Gonzaga Rolled into the Sweet Sixteen Today in Seattle (USA Today Images)

  1. Skilled Bigs. In order to have a chance to beat Gonzaga, you’ve need size to deal with their trio of bigs – Kyle Wiltjer, Prezemek Karnowski, and Domantas Sabonis. But simply having size is not enough to slow down this group. Wiltjer, as he showed tonight, has the ability to step out well beyond the three-point line and rain jumpers from deep. Karnowski’s nimble feet and deft passing ability belie his 288 pounds and brick-wall defensive ability. And Sabonis’ intelligence and polished post moves are impressive for an 18-year-old freshman. The left-handed Karnowski and Sabonis present a different look for defenses. Oh, and these guys go 6’10”, 7’1”, 6’10”, respectively. They fouled out Iowa bigs Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni and got three fouls on Aaron White. They scored 40 points in the paint and dominated on the glass. There aren’t a lot of teams in the nation outside of Lexington, Kentucky, that can match the Zags’ imposing and talented size.
  2. Useful Parts. You know all about those Gonzaga bigs. You also know about senior guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell. But something that will serve the Bulldogs extremely well from here on out is some of their bit pieces deeper down their bench. Kyle Dranginis has been described by head coach Mark Few as a “Swiss Army knife,” a guy who can do a little bit of everything. Tonight, after Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff got off to a hot start draining sevearl mid-range jumpers, Dranginis earned that assignment for large stretches for the final three-quarters of the game, challenging his shots and generally making him uncomfortable. Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan only played 12 minutes but he served as an athletic defensive stopper on the perimeter, a tertiary ball-handler and another veteran leader. And then there’s USC transfer Byron Wesley who, although a starter and a double-figure scorer, flies under the radar. He’s another guy who Few can rely on as a lockdown defender on the perimeter against teams with strong guards. The stars on this team are one thing, but this Gonzaga roster checks off every box you look for in a Final Four contender.
  3. Defensive Questions, Still. Look, the Zags were phenomenal on offense today. The final numbers – 1.28 points per possession, 13-of-21 from three, 74% eFG. Those are ridiculous offensive statistics. But we know this is a talented team offensively. If this team is going to get to a Final Four, they’re going to need to get some stops. Iowa tonight did not have a lot of things go well for it, but they still shot a better than 50% eFG and averaged a point per possession. Gonzaga has some nice defensive pieces but they’ve also got some liabilities. How far they will go may depend on how well they can mask those issues.

Star of the GameKyle Wiltjer. The numbers are one amazing thing: 24 points in 25 minutes, 10-of-12 from the field, 4-of-6 from three. But the way he did it makes them even more impressive. This is a 6’10” guy who did his part in the paint by grabbing seven boards. But when you’ve got a guy that big knocking in a trio of three-pointers in the 25-foot range, you’re going to have a heck of a time being successful on defense. His minutes were limited by foul trouble (including a couple cheapies) and he twice got burned defensively. But when he was in the game and Gonzaga had the ball, they were darn near unstoppable.

Sights & Sounds. Gonzaga Fans Can Relax. It hasn’t been easy to be a Gonzaga fan recently. Just mention the words Wichita State around one and watch a vein instantly appear on his or her forehead. But the Gonzaga fans certainly support their team, packing home games, turning the conference tournament in Las Vegas into additional home games and providing great environments in NCAA Tournament games. This year, it all came together for them. With the opening weekend in their home state, Gonzaga fans packed Key Arena and were rewarded on Sunday with a fairly comfortable win instead of the heartburn-inducing NCAA Tournament games of recent history.

Wildcard. Gonzaga to the Sweet Sixteen. It is Gonzaga’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2009, but let’s put the program in perspective. The Zags made their first-ever NCAA Tournament in 1995. In 1999, they went on a magical run to the Elite Eight under Dan Monson. In the subsequent 16 years under Mark Few, they have never missed an NCAA Tournament. This will be their sixth Sweet Sixteen appearance over that span. For a West Coast Conference school. And yet, some how, some way, this is a program that is generally thought of as an underachiever.


  • Kyle Wiltjer, on dropping in deep threes: “We just think those are good shots. We don’t really look down when we’re shooting, we’re just looking at the hoop.”
  • Domantas Sabonis is not a fan of having to come to press conferences and answering questions, so Mark Few always encourages reporters to ask him questions. Tonight, in lieu of reporters asking him those questions, Wiltjer stepped in and asked Sabonis about his experience in seeing the NCAA Tournament from overseas. But the real gold came after Sabonis answered the question and Wiltjer wondered aloud: “Is there an NCAA rule against a player asking a question?” Few immediately chipped in: “Probably.”

What’s Next?  Gonzaga will play UCLA on Friday night in the Sweet Sixteen in Houston, reprising a matchup on December 13 that the Zags won 87-74 at Pauley Pavilion and bringing up ghosts of Adam Morrison. Iowa graduates Aaron White, Gabe Olaseni and Josh Oglesby, but the Hawkeyes should return everyone else. Still, White’s departure alone leaves them with a big hole to fill.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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