Gonzaga basketball was on top of the college hoops world earlier in the year, after knocking off a Duke team that some thought looked unbeatable for a bit. The Bulldogs are going to be a factor all year, but have had a tough time in recent games, falling to then-No. 7 Tennessee and, tonight, No. 12 North Carolina.
Obviously a loss at UNC is hardly the sign of a season off the rails. Mark Few’s team was outclassed in Chapel Hill tonight though.
The Heels got a well-rounded effort, with four players in double-digits, led by Cameron Johnson (25 points), and Luke Maye (20), both of whom had efficient efforts.
Gonzaga star Rui Hachimura needed 14 shots to get to 17 points, getting nine of those from the free throw line. He gets his points, but both the Volunteers and Tar Heels have really made the Zags’ best player work.
It probably won’t matter much in WCC play, but Gonzaga basketball’s defense could prove to be a concern in March.
The team will be getting star big man Killian Tillie back at some point, which will help all-around. So far this year, however, the Bulldogs don’t have a championship-caliber defense.
From NBC Sports:
Their defense is a major, major issue. As of today, they rank 62nd in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. That still includes some data from last season, when Gonzaga was a top 20 defense nationally, which means that they might actually be a sub-75 defensive team. That is roughly where Duke was ranked last season when we were so concerned about them on the defensive side of the ball.
That does not usually result in NCAA tournament success. There have been just two teams since 2002 entered the tournament ranked outside the top 40 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric and reached the national title game: Butler in 2011, the year they beat No. 11 seed VCU in the Final Four, and Trey Burke’s Michigan team in 2013. North Carolina in 2009 was the worst defensive team to win a title, and they entered the tournament ranked 39th.
There is plenty of time for improvement on that end, but Zags fans should be at least a bit concerned there.