Top-ranked Gonzaga is one of three undefeated teams in men's college basketball entering February and the Zags have three legitimate All-American candidates in wing Corey Kispert, center Drew Timme and point guard Jalen Suggs.
Kispert is the veteran who's playing the best basketball of his career. Suggs is the star freshman who has made an immediate impact. Timme is the young player who has taken major strides to improve from a productive role player off the bench as a freshman to one of the best players in the country.
Here's what makes Timme so effective for No. 1 Gonzaga.
A team-leading usage rate along with an elite efficiency
Through Jan. 30, Timme has a team-high usage rate of 26.3 percent, which means that on average, when Timme is on the floor, just more than one out of every four Gonzaga offensive possessions ends with Timme making a shot, missing a shot that's rebounded by the defense or turning the ball over. So the 6-10 sophomore is Gonzaga's offense arguably runs through Timme more than anyone else on the top-ranked Zags.
On the possession below against Pepperdine, Jalen Suggs fed Timme on the left block extended.
Suggs then ran toward the right corner, while Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi both moved toward the top of the key, leaving Timme alone on the left half of the floor with the other four Gonzaga players on the right half. Pepperdine faced a tough decision: does it double-team, or even triple-team, Timme and leave Gonzaga's 3-point shooters and ball-handlers open on the perimeter, or does it leave Timme alone to work against just one defender, while shading toward his teammates on the perimeter?
In reality, Pepperdine sort of split the difference, with four defenders who had at least one foot in the lane and all five defenders in the key, ready to provide extra defense if necessary.
Ultimately, Timme just backed his man down, using his physicality, then put up an easy right-handed hook shot for a quick two, while the defenders neither collapsed on Timme, nor did they stay glued to the Gonzaga players they were defending on the perimeter, and that gave the Zags' big man enough space to operate on the left block.
But despite his team-high usage rate, Timme hasn't prevented him from posting an elite offensive rating — 127.4, which ranks 44th nationally. Only teammates Corey Kispert, an elite 3-point shooter, and Joel Ayayi, who makes 73 percent of his 2-point attempts, have a higher offensive rating than Timme, at 142.6 and 135.3, respectively.
Timme was an efficient as a freshman with an offensive rating of 121.5, but he has become even more efficient as a sophomore, despite playing an ever larger role on offense.
A propensity to get to the free-throw line
Timme draws 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranks 74th nationally, and he has 92 free-throw attempts compared to 190 field goal attempts this season, which is good for a free-throw rate of 46 percent. While big men aren't always known to be good free-throw shooters, Timme is several percentage points above the national average, as he makes 72.8 percent of his attempts, or 3.9 per game.
On the possession below against Virginia, Suggs poked away a pass from Virginia's Jay Huff, who was being defended by Timme. Suggs was off to the races
As Suggs ran down the floor for the transition layup, Timme followed, just in case Suggs wasn't able to score.
Timme's hustle paid off when Huff challenged Suggs at the rim and Timme was there to scoop up the loose ball, and he was fouled, turning Suggs' steal into a trip to the free-throw line for Timme.
He's an active offensive rebounder
With an offensive rebounding rate of 11, Timme grabs roughly one out of every nine shots that Gonzaga misses when he's on the floor. That rate ranks 144th nationally and he has the fourth-best rate in West Coast Conference play, as he's grabbing 9.8 percent of the Zags' missed shots in league play. Timme leads the team with 16 put-backs and he's shooting 72.7 percent on his put-back attempts this season, so he's dangerously efficient when he grabs one of Gonzaga's misses, then puts the ball back up.
Timme's averaging a team-best 2.5 offensive rebounds per game (and 6.9 total rebounds per game) for a Bulldogs squad that ranks in the top 60 in offensive rebounding percentage and he's a major reason why.
He's not trying to be a 3-point shooter
As a freshman at Gonzaga, Timme took two 3-pointers and made one of them. Many big men try to expand their game as their college careers progress and to add a 3-point shot to their repertoire. While Timme has made 3-of-10 3-pointers this season, that's not a steady part of his basketball diet.
What is? Making 63-percent of his 11 2-point shots per game. He's an efficient inside scorer and with other capable 3-point shooters on Gonzaga's roster, he doesn't need to step out and be a high-volume 3-point shooter, even if he might take steps in that direction someday.