BYU beat Gonzaga 83-73 in an 82-possession game Thursday night. I was there. This is what I saw.
Saint Mary’s thanks you, Noah Hartsock
BYU forward Noah Hartsock’s 24 and 14 effort helped pin a second loss to Gonzaga’s conference record, and that combined with the Gaels’ surprisingly narrow home win over San Diego Thursday night puts SMC two games clear of Gonzaga for the WCC regular season title. Gonzaga still has a chance to win a share of its 12th consecutive WCC title by beating Saint Mary’s, but they need the Gaels to lose another game somewhere. That’s not impossible, though. (Remember last season?) The chance of getting the top seed is nearly out of the question, though, because Saint Mary’s will hold the tiebreaker by virtue of its sweep of the team that should be the conference’s third-place finisher, BYU. Nonetheless, let’s see how the Simulator sees things shaping up. Here are the chances it gives for getting the top-seed in the WCC tournament…
Saint Mary’s 95.5% Gonzaga 4.2% BYU 0.3%
And keep in mind the Simulator is pretty dumb since it assumes there’s an equal chance the tiebreaker will fall to Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s.
The Zags defensive supremacy will take an unfair hit
Coming into the game, Gonzaga not only led the WCC in defensive efficiency during conference play, they led the league in three of the four factors while ranking second in turnover percentage. Part of this is explained by having only played one game against Saint Mary’s or BYU, but the larger part of the explanation is that their defense is pretty solid. This game really didn’t change my mind about that, either.
Sure, Gonzaga gave up 83 points, but BYU had 82 offensive possessions. The half-court defense was still impressive considering the opponent had a decent offense and the game was on the road. The problem was on the other end, where 12 first-half steals by BYU led to 17 points, often of the fast-break variety. Those points should be blamed on the faults of the offense, and if you take those out of the equation, the Gonzaga defense did very well.
(By the way, kudos to the folks behind StatBroadcast, who have added possession count and four factors information to their in-game application. See the right side of the Home Stats view.)
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
And if you are Gonzaga shooting specialist Mathis Monninghoff, sometimes you take 100% of your team’s shots and miss them all. Monninghoff checked in with 11:33 to go in the first half and returned to the bench permanently with 9:53 left. In between he missed three three-pointers, representing all of his team’s attempts during that time. Oddly, in 1:40 of action, Monninghoff took the same number of shots as the Zags most-frequent per-minute shooter this season, Elias Harris, did in 21 minutes on the floor.