SPOKANE, Wash. — Saint Mary's performance against Gonzaga on Tuesday was truly the perfect storm.
The Gaels had great focus, great defense and insane clutch shots.
Was it also Gonzaga's worst game of the year? Sure. Was shot selection iffy at times? Yes. Were they not aggressive enough? Definitely.
But here's the thing, Saint Mary's controlled the pace for the whole game. They dictated what they wanted Gonzaga to do. This was no accident. All of this was by design.
The way the Gaels controlled the Zags laid out the blueprint on how to take down the Bulldogs.
SLOW-PACED GAMES HAVE GIVEN ZAGS PROBLEMS
A slow-paced defensive game with not many fast-break opportunities has been a weakness for Gonzaga.
This hasn't been exposed that much because they haven't played many opponents capable of doing it. But looking back on recent conference games like San Diego on the road, Saint Mary's on the road and Saint Mary's last night are the best examples of teams who could do it.
In those games, the Zags didn't dictate the pace for most of it and when they didn't the game was close.
Ball movement gets stagnant, they take tough shots and they struggle from three-point range. In the games they were able to win, they went on runs where they were able to flip the pace in crucial moments of the second half.
But that didn't happen last night when they faced a team who could put together a complete game with that kind of defense.
That's a pretty sizable concern to have when we are talking about NCAA Tournament title runs. There are other teams with better athletes far more capable of doing this to the Zags than San Diego and Saint Mary's.
THREATS TO GONZAGA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Teams like Virginia, Texas Tech, Michigan, Wisconsin, Houston, Kansas State and Cincinnati have the game plan that can cause problems for Gonzaga.
These teams play really good defense like the Gaels did that night. They all have guards that can make the game tough on Josh Perkins, too.
The squads are very capable of deep runs, all rank near the top in defensive rating and have a slow pace of play.
In comparison, San Diego and Saint Mary's are both slow-paced teams, but their defensive efficiency ratings are ranked in the 100s.
There are a lot of teams that can repeat this success against Gonzaga and the Bulldogs have to find a way to be ready for it.
If they are going to make a deep run, they are going to face at least one if not a couple of those teams along the way all depending on seeding in the tournament.