No. 1seed Gonzaga has the single most impressive offense in college basketball this season.
Texas Tech is not a team that's demanded the attention of the casual basketball fan this season. The Bulls played one of their best games in dispatching Arizona State 91-74 in the round of 64, but it will be a tall order to repeat against the Red Raiders. Both players were among the semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award. "We show a lot of Gonzaga clips - their passion, their togetherness, their courage, how aggressive they are", said Texas Tech coach Chris Beard. I'm willing to say it's Gonzaga. As a team, Gonzaga is averaging the most points per game in the country, scoring 88.2 points per game on 52.8% shooting from the field, which also happens to be the best field goal percentage in the nation, along with a 36.6% mark from 3-point range and a 76.1% mark from the foul line this season.
That will change next season when Tech welcomes a top-15 recruiting class that will feature two top-75 players in the nation (Jahmius Ramsey and Terrence Shannon Jr.) as well as the JUCO preseason player of the year (Khalid Thomas).
That is not always easy and we have seen that against Baylor and Florida State. Only the 40 minutes matter - "the opportunity in front of us", as Zags forward Jeremy Jones put it.
The world didn't end for MI on Thursday night in Honda Center as it banged into the red-brick wall of the nation's most defensive-efficient team, but the 2019 NCAA tournament did.
MI coach John Beilein said Texas Tech was better in person than on game tape. "We've played many games this year where the tempo probably hasn't been at the speed we like to".
Texas Tech, with its unique defensive style, took away much of Michigan's ball-screen offense.
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But that's merely focusing on half of the matchup.
Nonetheless, this Gonzaga club has grown significantly on defense, both as straight defenders on the perimeter and in the paint where their height has them challenging foes to have clean looks.
MI had 14 turnovers. MI scored 16 points in the first half.
Clarke is also the main rebounder for Gonzaga as he averages 8.5 rebounds per game. The stages of the NCAA Tournament and its three-week psychodrama make for something of an extended cattle-call audition anyway.
Coming in, the game promised to be a slog. "From beginning to end we've had to work really hard to get our defense to the level we want it to".
Ignas Brazdeikis #13 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts to a first half three point basket while playing the Michigan State Spartans at Crisler Arena on February 24, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
On Thursday, the Red Raiders made history for MI basketball (the bad kind), which missed its first 18 3-point attempts. This is their second consecutive season in the Elite Eight, and those are the only two trips this deep into March in the program's history.
"Just enjoy the ride, not just the destination", Beard said of his message this time around. Coaches like Bob Knight, Mike Leach and Kliff Kingsbury all seemed to be national stories because of their personalities more than their team's accomplishments.