Creighton basketball 2021 The Gonzaga Train Rolls on With a Flourish After Dicing Up Creighton
Creighton basketball Creighton basketball Rolls on With The Gonzaga Flourish Dicing Up Train Creighton After a
Sun, 28 Mar 2021 14:00:00 -0700
March Madness has belonged to Gonzaga so far, but the road ahead is still tough as it chases an undefeated season
INDIANAPOLIS — Holed up in the downtown Marriott here, Mark Few says he’s not sleeping well in NCAA tournament lockdown.
He doesn’t expect that to change now.
“There’ll be no more good night’s sleep in the bubble,” The Gonzaga coach said Sunday, after his team dispatched Creighton, 83–65, in the Sweet 16.
“These will all be really hard games.
… Literally the hardest thing we do in our sport is advancing in this tournament.
Just look at this year.”
Look at this year and you do indeed see an onslaught of upsets, resulting in the highest aggregate seeding in history.
But then you also see Gonzaga, smashing everyone in its path thus far.
Courtesy of NCAA Photos
Halfway to history, the undefeated Zags are performing like an all-time great team.
They have dispatched their first three opponents by a combined 77 points, with the closest victory margin 16.
They are averaging 89.3 points per game in the tourney.
They haven’t yet experienced a flicker of discomfort in an elimination game, never leading by fewer than nine points at any juncture of three second halves.
In the last 40 years, the only men's national champions who won each of their first three NCAA games by more than 15 points are Villanova 2016, Connecticut ’04, Kentucky 1998 and Kentucky ’96.
The highest-scoring national champs of this century through three games are North Carolina 2009 at 94.3 and Kentucky ’12 at 90.
Gonzaga is keeping good company—but, again, is only halfway to the finish line.
Few loved his team’s defense against Creighton Sunday, and with good reason.
Holding a dangerous perimeter shooting team to five made three-pointers in 23 attempts was strong.
But the truly special part of this Gonzaga team is what it does on the offensive end.
Nobody in the college game passes the ball more crisply, creatively and willingly.
Player movement and ball movement have long been the coins of Few’s realm, and this is his best team yet in that area.
“It’s probably our best attribute,” Few said.
Some teams need to move deliberately to execute well offensively.
This is the third-fastest team in the nation at the offensive end, averaging 14.3 seconds per possession, flowing smoothly, recognizing advantages immediately and attacking aggressively.
They are a visual feast.
“It's one of the best passing teams I've seen … in college basketball in a long time,” said Creighton coach Greg McDermott.
What the Zags did to the Bluejays’ best defensive team in 15 years was a clinic on modern offense.
Gonzaga had 23 assists and made 76% of its two-point shots, carving Creighton to pieces.
Point guard Andrew Nembhard destroyed the Bluejays one pocket pass at a time, dropping an array of deft dimes to teammates in ball-screen situations.
He finished with 17 points and eight assists, both his highest single-game totals since January.
“I think that's been our identity all season,” Nembhard said.
“I think we play best when we're just moving the ball because we have so many pieces and so much versatility.
It's just like playing a part with a bunch of guys that click so well.”
Said Few: “When he’s in that zone, he’s the best I’ve ever coached at making decisions in the ball screens.”
Courtesy of NCAA Photos
Corey Kispert and Drew Timme are the All-Americans.
Jalen Suggs is the lottery pick.
But Nembhard has become the catalyst of that philharmonic Gonzaga passing game.
And here’s the thing about the junior transfer from Florida: it wasn’t clear that he would even play for Gonzaga this season.
The original plan was for five-star freshman Jalen Suggs to run the point while Nembhard redshirted.
But Nembhard fit in immediately, flourishing in the accelerated pace after two years with the deliberate Gators.
Nembhard was so good in the preseason that Few suggested he try to get a waiver for immediate eligibility, and he ran the idea of sharing floor-general duties by Suggs.
“He just got the biggest grin on his face,” Few said.
“I'll remember it the rest of my life.
He was like, ‘Coach, are you kidding me? That would be awesome.’
“I've found over the years the real players, they don't fear anybody.
They welcome all great players around them.
And I told the staff after I met with Jalen, this takes us from top 15, top 20 to top five and national championship contender.”
Watching this offensive machine come together, Few tinkered with his practice drills to accentuate moving and cutting.
The more the players responded, the more he added.
When Gonzaga mowed down Kansas, West Virginia, Auburn and Iowa to start the season, Few knew.
“Very quickly we found out … that they not only liked to pass—all of them, including Drew—but they're really, really good at it,” he said.
“That sounds simple and corny or whatever.
… They all have a really good feel for the game.”
Few and his team left Hinkle Fieldhouse Sunday unsure of their next opponent, waiting for the late-night game between USC and Oregon.
Few has reveled in building an improbable power in the shadow of the Pac-12, becoming the program everyone in that conference wishes it could have.
Beating a team from that league to reach the Final Four would being an added layer of satisfaction to the coach and the Gonzaga fans.
But the Elite Eight game Tuesday will, almost certainly, be the Zags’ toughest challenge to date.
Few’s restless nights will be well-earned now.
The stress-free second halves are destined to stop at some point … right?
If not, we’ll start measuring this Gonzaga team by the standards of the all-time greats.
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The United States under-23 men’s team has failed to qualify for the last three Olympic Games.
While the United States missing out on the Olympics is certainly disappointing, there were several mitigating circumstances that didn’t work in the team’s favor.
There are four spots left in the Elite Eight in both NCAA tournaments as Sunday’s action kicks off.
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Trevor Lawrence won’t be shaking Roger Goodell’s hand after being drafted on April 29.
Inches from an extraordinary win, there was still glory gained by the Golden Eagles in their Sweet 16 loss against Arkansas.
Forward Isaiah Livers, Michigan’s second-leading scorer, has been out of the Wolverines’ lineup since injuring his foot in the Big Ten tournament.
Creighton basketball Creighton basketball
Sun, 28 Mar 2021 14:00:00 -0700
1-seeded Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA men's basketball tournament with a 83-65 defeat of No
5 seed Creighton
Drew Timme scored
Three down and three to go for unbeaten Gonzaga.
1-seeded Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with a 83-65 defeat of No.
5 seed Creighton.
Drew Timme scored a team-high 22 points for Gonzaga, which will face the winner of the Oregon-Southern California game later Sunday.
A victory Tuesday against either the Ducks or Trojans would send the Bulldogs to their second Final Four in four tournaments and move them two wins from becoming the first unbeaten national champion since Indiana in 1976.
The last five unbeatens to enter the tournament since that Hoosiers team have fallen short of winning the title.
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The recipe against Creighton was similar to the other 28 victories by Gonzaga this year.
The Bulldogs, the country’s top scoring team, had too much offensive firepower for the Bluejays, who hung around for much of the first half before falling behind the pace set by Gonzaga.
Timme and Andrew Nebhard had 12 points apiece as the Bulldogs led 43-33 at halftime.
Creighton’s Marcus Zegarowski led all scorers in the first half with 13 points, but the rest of the team managed to shoot just 10 of 29 from the field.
“I really thought it was our defense that made the difference tonight.
They’re a scary offensive unit, especially when you’re preparing for them,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the game.
“I thought we did a really, really nice job, especially on the three line.”
The Bulldogs continued to push the pace in the second half.
They scored eight of the first 10 points after the break.
When Jalen Suggs hit a layup with 11:15 left, the lead was 20, and the drama of the game was over.
Zegarowski finished with a team-high 19 points for Creighton, which concluded an up-and-down season. Bluejays coach Greg McDermott was suspended for the final game of the regular season after making a racially insensitive comment to his team after a loss. However, they responded by reaching the Big East tournament final and then made their first Sweet 16 since 1974.
“Obviously, we’ve had to navigate through some tough stuff the last month together, and those were some challenging times, but when you have good people in your locker room, you have a chance to get through those tough times,” McDermott said after the game.
“I’ll forever be indebted to them for accepting me for who I am and that I’m a person that makes mistakes and that I’m going to continue to work to be a better person as a result of my mistake.”
Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith
– March 29, 2021
drew timme, gonzaga vs creighton