Friday, March 18, 2011

Marquise Carter makes the Zags a more dangerous team

Gonzaga disappointed a lot of folks this season, as they struggled through much of the regular season.

The problem wasn't a lack of talent. The 1-2-3 punch of Steven Gray, Elias Harris, and Robert Sacre is about as good as you'll find in the country. The issue, however, was that the Zags didn't have anyone to replace Matt Bouldin's play making. With not facilitator or creator on the floor, the offense stagnated and Gray and Harris ended up forcing tough shots.

Enter Marquise Carter.

The JuCo transfer really came on down the stretch of the season. Over the last nine games, Carter averaged 12.7 ppg and 3.9 apg, acting as the dynamic complement to David Stockton's floor leadership.

And on Thursday, Carter erupted.

Against a St. John's team that was supposed to be physical defensively and tough in the full court, Carter led a surgical evisceration of the Johnnies, winning 86-69. He had a career-high 24 points to go along with six assists and six rebounds in what was one of Gonzaga's best offensive performance of the season.

The Zags scored 1.32 PPP. They shot 53.8% from the floor and 9-15 from three. The most impressive stat of the night, however, had little to do with Carter, as Gonzaga grabbed 86.1% of the available defensive rebounds and 44.4% of the available offensive rebounds. In total, the Zags outrebound St. John's 43-20.

Steven Gray added 16 points, six boards, and five assists while Elias Harris chipped in 15 points and eight boards.

"They're definitely a Final Four-capable team, national championship-potential team," St. John's head coach Steve Lavin said after the game.

While I don't know if I would go that far just yet, this is definitely a Gonzaga team that can beat BYU in the next game and play their way into the Sweet 16. Maybe beyond. Wouldn't be ironic if the first time that Mark Few has made it past the Sweet 16 was the year his team was supposed to be a disappointment?

Forgive me, I'm getting way ahead of myself.

The Zags must first deal with the Jimmer before they can think about the Elite 8.

But the reason that we can even toy with that thought is the play of Marquise Carter. Expecting him to put up numbers like he did tonight is too much, but simply having that kind of threat in their back court makes Gonzaga a much more dangerous team.

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