They never would have believed that the Zags, a huge 14.5-15-point favorite over Saint Mary’s, could have stumbled, 60-47, in the West Coast Conference tournament, an event they’ve virtually owned in recent years.
-- The instant reaction among some GU fans is: Well, now there’s a blueprint out there on how to beat Gonzaga. Which, to me, is ridiculous. The biggest factor in this game was Saint Mary’s ability to control the tempo, or conversely, Gonzaga’s inability to speed the Gaels up. I’d bet at least 80 percent of Saint Mary’s possessions resulted in shots taken with single digits on the shot clock. As of Tuesday night, SMC is No. 347 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted tempo rankings. That’s what it does, and does very well. Unless a future Gonzaga opponent is similarly adept at massaging the ball
-- and hardly anybody is -- it shouldn’t be a major consideration.
-- Having said that, I agree with analyst Dick Vitale that Gonzaga’s defensive intensity didn’t seem overwhelming. GU never could apply enough heat to make Saint Mary’s uncomfortable.
-- Zach Norvell has had games where he starts out 1 for 6 from the field. That’s when he usually goes 4 for his next 5. This was the night he kept shooting, and kept missing.
-- Saint Mary’s had a 34-27 rebounding edge. Rui Hachimura had five boards in 34 minutes. He seemed to be without urgency.
-- Josh Perkins has had a marvelous senior year, but when analysts look at the Zags, he’s often the one questioned, and 4-for-14, five-turnover nights don’t dissuade them. He has the NCAA tournament to prove them wrong.
-- From Gonzaga’s standpoint, Saint Mary’s big guys did far too much damage down low, especially in the first half. I was surprised GU didn’t double more, although SMC’s facility with floor spacing might have discouraged Gonzaga from doing so.
-- Now the debate will be whether Gonzaga is worthy of a No. 1 seed. There’s a lot of sentiment that it remains so, but I suspect that will be contingent on the Power 5 conference results. Even if it slips to a No. 2, the damage probably is minimal. It will stay in the West and either begin in Salt Lake City or San Jose.
-- Typically, the days between the end of the WCC tournament and Selection Sunday have kind of a celebratory, anticipatory feel for the Zags. The guess here is that re-calibration and resolve will now be the operative elements.