Gonzaga got destroyed by Texas this week 93-74 in Austin. I think we need to take a closer look at what is going on with the team almost everyone thought was at least in the Top 2. While we picked Texas higher than most outlets in the preseason at 6th, (and to go to the Final 4) I wouldn’t have expected nearly a 20-point beat down even with home court. I wouldn’t normally jump to conclusions after a few games. Upsets happen but this is the third surprising score for Gonzaga, and it appears to be more of a trend.
The first surprise was Tennessee comfortably beating them in a charity exhibition on a neutral floor. That one didn’t in reality count and could be overlooked a lot easier being an exhibition. People can say they were testing things or not trying as hard but I don’t buy that personally. We had Tennessee ranked 7th, higher than most as well so there was no shame. That’s a very good team but the bigger issue is the number of points they are giving up to these teams. They gave up 99 in that exhibition to Tennessee, and 93 to Texas. It feels like the loss of Chet Holmgren is going to be felt significantly more on that end of the floor when they face other elite teams than originally anticipated.
Michigan State has looked much better than we expected. They lost by 1 point to Gonzaga and then beat Kentucky in overtime, but that’s a team I still wouldn’t classify as elite. Izzo is a great coach but they were a 7 seed that lost much of their team and didn’t add a lot that screamed immediate help. We thought they might be around a 10 seed in the preseason. They maybe better than anticipated but I don’t think it’s an elite team or one a top 5 team should struggle with. Gonzaga needed a 1 point victory to beat them. The game was in a weird air carrier game which you could kind of overlook some as well with the environment outdoors being what it was. This Texas loss however should be sounding the alarms in Spokane.
Gonzaga shot 47.4% from three and made 9 threes in that game. They got to the line 21 times vs Texas 16, out-rebounded Texas by 4, had a 61% true shooting and still lost by 19. Texas was 13-19 at the rim. Some of that was points off turnovers, turning Gonzaga over 20 times vs 10 of their own. It’s bad the way they are giving it up in the paint. We picked Drew Timme as our national player of the year, but if the interior defense is going to be a traffic cone we may need to rethink that depending on the next couple of weeks.
Gonzaga will certainly win a lot of games in the WCC, possibly even go undefeated, but their season is about to be defined against Kentucky and Baylor in the next 3 games. If they beat both of them I think Texas is viewed more as a speed bump. If they lose even one of those I think it’s time to move them out of the Top 5 as shaky as the start has been. They could get back later by beating Alabama and not having a loss in the WCC, but these are a really big next two weeks for how this team is viewed nationally. They always have a little fraud conversation around them and doubt even if they have players drafted in the top 5 it seems. Unfortunately, it seems like the one they lost to the 2nd pick last year might not have been replaced like they usually do. We’ll be following them closely for the next 2 weeks.
The other team ranked number either 1 or number 2 consensus in the preseason is struggling as well. It may even be more concerning the quality of teams they are looking pedestrian vs at home. UNC first beat a UNCW team thought to be about 200th by 13 points in game one. Then they gave up 86 points to College of Charleston, and now this week they only beat Gardner Webb by 6. That’s a concerning trend as well if you are a UNC fan. None of these teams were expected to be good. Gardner Webb was expected to be downright bad after only finishing about 150th last year and losing their two best players to Georgia Tech and Texas Tech. They didn’t add anyone that impressive.
What’s more concerning to me is that UNC was dicking around with rotations either and testing things like many coaches do early in the season. Toying with teams like a cat does a mouse. It’s not of that, they have been playing their top guys for a lot of minutes in all of these games, and they are still games. In the Gardner Webb game they basically played their starters all 30 minutes a game and only one bench player got double-digit minutes. If they were getting their 2nd unit and 10th man a lot of looks early as Roy Williams would do with his rotations it might not look as bad. These are much tighter rotations with proven guys, most of which were in the national title game just last April. It’s also not like the teams they faced are making fluke amounts of 3’s or anything unsustainable as well. All three shot under 35% from three vs them and were still in the game. Charles only went to the line 9 times and shot 8-24 for 33% from three and still put up 86 on them.
Upset Alert: Keep an Eye on this JMU/ UNC game Sunday. JMU added a top transfer and has crushed 3 D1 teams so far this year. Buffalo by 35, Hampton by 48, and Howard by 26. They’ve looked great, and UNC hasn’t. That’s a game to watch.
We had the Wolverines ranked 43rd in the preseason, and they were 20th in the AP this week. After losing to Arizona State by 25 and nearly losing to Eastern Michigan by 5 I don’t think they should be anywhere near the Top 25.
TCU is a team we talked about last week only beating Arkansas Pine Bluff by 1 point. They beat Lamar by 11, and lost to Northwestern State. All three of those teams are probably 225+. Not a good sign for the horn frogs. This is probably just a slump. They returned as much continuity as anyone in the nation from a solid top-35 team last year. It’s basically the same team. That’s what makes it most strange. You would think this is the time of the year they would be way ahead of everyone, with all the turnover and new transfers teams are working in.