The question college basketball fans everywhere are asking after Gonzaga pulled off a huge win against the Duke Blue Devils in the Maui Invitational Tournament: is Gonzaga legit?
They sure looked like it. The Zags came out the gate strong and anybody who watched the game clearly saw that the Bulldogs commanded the pace of the game. For a Blue Devil team that strives on racing down the court and beating defenders on the fast break, commanding pace was a must if the ‘Dogs wanted to make it a competition.
Zags’ center Rui Hachimura had the game of his life, and there was no better time for him to do so. Holding Duke Center Marques Bolden to just sixsix points and five rebounds, as well as dumping in 20 points and sevenseven boards himself, Hachimura was by far the best player on the floor wire to wire. Zion will be Zion and RJ, RJ, but a stellar defense that clearly made both players uncomfortable on the floor led Gonzaga to be ahead for the majority of the game.
Experience played a role in this win. Gonzaga looked like they had played together for numerous years while Duke was the exact opposite. The Zags played as a team within themselves, while Duke’s stud freshmen looked like they were playing for personal highlights – not a winning formula.
Additionally, RJ Barrett taking the last five shots in the game was not a good look for Duke basketball. Denying Zion the ball and keeping Cam Reddish isolated from the play left the nation’s top recruit to shine in the last moments – but he didn’t. It’s a team sport, and Barrett, for some reason, was adamant about driving to the rack and chucking up crazy layups at impossible angles.He may get those calls in high school, but not at the end of a college game in an invitational tournament. Undoubtedly, this game was a learning curve for RJ and Duke as a whole; they now know they are mortal.
But let us circle back to the original question: is Gonzaga legit? Yes, Gonzaga is legit. Returning upperclassmen will bode well for a successful season and deep run in March Madness. In tandem with an extremely easy schedule (apart from a trip to UNC Chapel Hill), excellent coaching and a fluid offense, the Dogs are definitely a team to look out for.
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