Drew Timme, Gonzaga Bulldogs, March Madness

Gonzaga and Creighton, two of the best scoring teams in March Madness, lit up the scoreboards on their way out of Denver.

3-seed Gonzaga and 6-seed Creighton survived a tough Denver region that sent Final Four contenders Creighton and TCU home.

Four different players scored at least 30 points in a game, highlighted by two separate Bluejays stars in Ryan Kalkbrenner and Ryan Nembhard. Terquavion Smith (NC State) and LJ Cryer (Baylor) each had 30-point games in losses.

Denver Region Most Outstanding Player

Drew Timme, Gonzaga

Drew Timme might not have had a 30-point game, but he had two 20-point outings, including 28 in a hard-fought win over TCU. I’m not quite sure if a single player in March Madness is on more of a mission to cut down the nets than Timme. Mark Few has yet to win a national championship, and Timme knows that he has as great of a shot as ever this year. In the first weekend, Timme played as if his life depended on it.

Denver Region First Team

  • G: Ryan Nembhard, Creighton – 2 games (20.0 PPG, 2.5 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 54.5 FG%)
  • G: Mike Miles Jr., TCU – 2 games (25.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 50.0 FG%)
  • G: Julian Strawther, Gonzaga – 2 games (19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 BPG
  • F: Drew Timme, Gonzaga – 2 games (24.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.0 BPG, 58.8 FG%)
  • C: Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton – 2 games (20.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.0 BPG, 62.5 FG%)

3 Takeaways

#1: Creighton is living up to initial Final Four hopes

At the beginning of the season, Creighton was a popular pick to win the Big East and even get to Houston for the Final Four. After a stretch of six straight losses, faith was also lost in the Jays’ ability to win games. But with a healthy Ryan Kalkbrenner, those fears are not true.

What separates Creighton from the pack are the number of scorers on this roster. Kalkbrenner and Nembhard proved that as each went for 30 points in back-to-back March Madness games. But you can’t forget about Arthur Kaluma, Baylor Scheierman, or Trey Alexander. It’s about as packed a starting lineup as you’ll ever see in college basketball, and the Jays are rolling.

#2: Don’t bet against Gonzaga

8 straight tournaments. 8 straight March Madness tournaments that Gonzaga has reached the Sweet Sixteen. In the words of DeMarcus Cousins, “It’s getting ridiculous, it’s really ridiculous!”

At this point, at least in the first weekend of March, just know that Gonzaga isn’t about to get upset. Whether it’s Drew Timme, Damontis Sabonis, or Rui Hachimura anchoring the team, the Zags will find a way to advance in March. The question is, is this the year they can complete the run all the way?

#3: Give Mike Miles his flowers

Mike Miles was never able to get past the round of 32 in three years at TCU, but that shouldn’t diminish his ability. In four career NCAA Tournament games, Miles averaged 22.8 PPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.8 RPG. Aside from last year’s loss to Arizona, Miles shot efficiently in all of the others, including an 8-of-13 night against Gonzaga.

As Miles likely departs for a professional career, we ought to celebrate what he did for the past two seasons in a Horned Frogs jersey. In March, Mike Miles just turned into a different animal.

Lookahead for Gonzaga

As the 3 seed in the west region, many people looked ahead at a potential Sweet 16 matchup with 2 seed UCLA. And lo and behold, we got what we wished for! The Bulldogs and Bruins will meet in March Madness for the first time since Jalen Suggs’ banked-in three-pointer gave Gonzaga an overtime win over UCLA in the Final Four.

Will history repeat itself? I’m not even sure if anything will come close to this moment, especially in a rematch just two years after.

But it will be fun to watch. Both sides have key pieces who were also key pieces on those 2021 teams. There’s going to be extra motivation for both teams to come away with a win and move on to the Elite 8.

When looking at the overall picture, Gonzaga – who was my pick to win the whole thing – has a chance to cut down the nets in Houston. It can’t just be Drew Timme, and it hasn’t been so far. Julian Strawther has stepped up and rebounded the heck out of the ball. Malachi Smith is one name who could provide an extra lift off the bench. The pieces are there, but as always the story is with Gonzaga, can they finish the job?

Lookahead for Creighton

Talk about the pieces being there. Creighton has five legitimate scoring pieces. But they do have one massive concern. Where will the bench points come from?

On a team that averaged 76.7 points per game, over 75% of that comes from the starting crew. It’s especially concerning when no one off the bench even averages 4 PPG.

Now, clearly, something has been working for Creighton, and against Princeton, unless foul trouble becomes an issue, the Bluejays should drop a lot of points that the Tigers won’t be able to keep up with.

Having a stronger bench is needed against Alabama. If that is an Elite 8 matchup, Creighton better hope all five starters stay out of foul trouble and have overly efficient nights from the field, or an unsung hero finds a way to score 10 points. It’s a matchup I hope happens, but a lot will need to go right if that is the path for the Bluejays to fly to Houston.

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