Gonzaga played as close to perfect as perfect as you can imagine in its Elite 8 annihilation of Xavier on Saturday. With the Musketeers on a red-hot run through the first three rounds of the tournament, most pundits figure they’d run out of gas at some point, but a 24-point whipping wasn’t what most had in mind.
The Bulldogs are now two wins away from not just a national championship, but one of the single greatest seasons in NCAA college basketball history. Two wins would get them to 38-1, tying them for the most wins in a single season with Kentucky’s 2012 and 2015 teams and Memphis’s 2008 squad – interestingly enough all three coached by John Calipari.
The Bulldogs’ best number is their +22.3 points per game differential entering the Final Four. Only Duke’s 1998-1999 team had a higher average (25.9 ppg).
The Bulldogs are exciting because they have one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country in junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss and Premek Karnowski. Williams-Goss is the straw who stirs the drink, leading the team in minutes (32.4 per game), points per game (16.7), assists per game (4.6), steals per game (1.8), and free-throw percentage (.882).
How Karnowski responds to the pressure of this round will determine a lot. He’s 7-feet, 1-inch and weighs 300 pounds, but the Bulldogs have won in spite of him so far during the tournament. Against Xavier last weekend, he had just five points and three rebounds and sat a bunch with four fouls. During the tournament, he’s averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He’s not a banger but being that tall should be good for 15 and 8 every game.
The X factors for the Bulldogs are Jordan Mathews and Johnathan Williams, the team’s third- and fourth-leading scorers. Mathews is putting up 10.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while Williams leads the team in rebounds at 6.6 per game and adds in 10.3 points per contest. Read the rest of this entry →