Mismatches and Offensive Efficiency: A Closer Look at Gonzaga vs. Duke


The one thing this NCAA Tournament has taught me is to pick games based on nothing but coaches.

For example, the lack of flash on Michigan State’s roster may nudge a confident bracket selector (me) to pick Sparty to bow out early. But beyond closer look, not only does coach Tom Izzo have more final four appearances (6) than he does first round losses (5), but his coaching staff also has 45+ years of continuity.

Bottom line is, never bet against Izzo in March.

Mar 27, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the first half in the semifinals of the south regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament against the Utah Utes at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A similar – yet slightly more complicated – notion exists for Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski. It seems as though the four-time national champion either experiences an early upset (a là ‘Mercer’ or ‘Lehigh’) or makes a deep, deep run.

So when Coach K’s one-seed Blue Devils (32-4) face coach Mark Few’s two-seed Zags (35-2), the Krzyzewski pedigree v. Few’s first deep tournament dive will sure be a weathered storyline throughout the game.

But on the court, what is GU highlighting in the game plan today? Where will Duke look to exploit, and what will hold the coaching staff sleepless tonight?

For starters, let us examine the lineups.

PG – Kevin Pangos (6’2), 11.8 ppg, 4.9 apg -v- Tyus Jones (6’1), 11.5 ppg, 5.7 apg
SG – Gary Bell Jr. (6’2), 8.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.4 apg -v- Quinn Cook (6’2), 15.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.7 apg
SF – Byron Wesley (6’4), 10.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.3 apg -v- Matt Jones (6’5), 5.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg
PF –  Kyle Wiltjer (6’10), 16.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg -v- Justice Winslow (6’6) 12.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg
C – Przemek Karnowski (7’1), 11.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg -v- Jahlil Okafor (6’11), 17.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg

Gonzaga’s bench:
Domantas Sabonis (6’10), 9.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg
Kyle Dranginis (6’5), 4.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Eric McClellan (6’4), 2.0 ppg, 0.8 apg
Silas Melson (6’4), 3.2 ppg

Duke’s bench:
Amile Jefferson (6’9), 6.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Semi Ojeleye (6’8), 3.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Marshall Plumlee (7’0), 2.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg
Grayson Allen (6’4) 4.0 ppg, 0.9 rpg

The mismatch of all mismatches

Duke started forward/center Amile Jefferson for the bulk of the year, but a late-season lineup swap prompted the Dukies to go small, moving the freaky athletic Winslow to the four and bringing Matt Jones in as a third guard.

More from 2015 NCAA Tournament

This means the dynamic do-it-all freshman will match up with the Bulldogs’ glaring defensive liability Kyle Wiltjer, which while it could work in Wiltjer’s advantage (four-inch and 15 pound advantage) he will have to experience success taking Winslow down on the block.

Playing in front of a home crowd in Houston, Winslow (as the team’s 3rd scoring option) dropped 21 points and nabbed 10 rebounds to live up to his X-factor role to lead Duke past Utah in the Sweet 16.

Will he have a repeat performance tomorrow? Based on one of the Zags’ losses when the opponent played a four-guard lineup, BYU on Feb. 28, history certainly plays against them.

Kyle Collinsworth slid into the power forward spot and essentially turned Wiltjer into a non-factor in the Zags’ only loss this Calendar year. The Blue Devils present a similar opportunity with Winslow – keep a close eye on the No. 12 in white.

Where the Zags have the advantage

Yes, Jahlil Okafor is the best offensive player in college basketball. Yes, he will be a great NBA player next year. But if Okafor wants to stay in the game tomorrow, he does not have as much freedom to take risks guarding Karnowski, Sabonis or Wiltjer, in fear of foul trouble.

Okafor is the guy, and Karnowski has the nation’s attention after the 18 point, nine rebound Sweet 16 outing, so Karnowski v. Okafor will be the marquee matchup, but how much time will they actually be guarding each other?

Duke has bodies to bring in, such as Plumlee and Jefferson, but does not match up to the level of depth GU flaunts with Karnowski/Wiltjer/Sabonis.

Adjusted offensive efficiency

As of yesterday, Duke and Gonzaga are No. 3 and 4 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (per KenPom), so this by all means reaffirms this game ranking among the best in the tournament.

Stay tuned to westcoastconvo.com for continued coverage of the Zags in the NCAA Tournament.