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#12 Gonzaga Bulldogs Game Preview/Open Thread

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The Huskies square off against their cross-state rivals coming off one of the biggest wins in program history

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Sunday, 12/10/17

Tip-Off Time: 5:00pm PST

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: KOMO 1000

Location: Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec-Ed Pavilion, Seattle, Washington

Betting Line: Gonzaga -8.5

Gonzaga 2017-18 Statistics:

Record: 7-2

Points For per Game: 90.6 ppg (7th)

Points Against per Game: 75.0 ppg (205th)

Strength of Schedule: 56th

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 116.4 (11th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.7 (27th)

Gonzaga Key Players:

C-Killian Tillie, So. 6’10, 215: 11.7ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.1apg, 57.5% FG, 82.4% FT, 36.8% 3pt

The European transplant has improved across the board in year 2 taking over for Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins. If there’s one flaw in his game it’s that he isn’t a great offensive rebounder for his size so the Dawgs can’t let him get 2nd chance points.

F- Johnathan Williams, Sr. 6’9, 228: 14.7ppg, 6.1rpg, 1.8apg, 52.2% FG, 58.9% FT, 23.1% 3pt

Williams transferred from Missouri after being a highly sought after recruit and has thrived in Spokane. Most of his efficiency numbers are down this year since becoming the Bulldogs’ #1 option. He’s off to a very slow shooting start (36.5% career from 3) so the Huskies should hope he doesn’t finally get going in this game.

F-Corey Kispert, Fr. 6’6, 215: 10.4ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.3apg, 54% FG, 66.7% FT, 37.9% 3pt

The freshman top-100 recruit from Edmonds might be a one that got away for UW. He’s been phenomenally efficient while playing a relatively small role in the Gonzaga offense. It wouldn’t shock me at all if he ends the day with something like 12 points on just 6 shots.

G- Silas Melson, Sr. 6’4, 195: 11.1ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.8apg, 42.9% FG, 90.5% FT, 34.1% 3pt

Melson’s role has slowly increased every year and he’s having his best season in his final one. He’s a consummate glue guy who is able to do a little bit of everything for Gonzaga without needing the ball in his hands all the time.

G- Josh Perkins, Jr. 6’3, 190: 14.4ppg, 4.0rpg, 4.4apg, 44.4% FG, 76.9% FT, 50% 3pt

If Gonzaga had played Perkins over an injured Nigel Williams-Goss down the stretch of the NCAA title game last year they very well might have won it all. He’s hit on half of his makes from deep this season while still leading the team in assists. His one flaw is he’s quite prone to turnovers so the Huskies might be able to use that to their advantage.

The Outlook

There’s no rest for the weary. Both UW and Gonzaga are coming off huge “neutral” site games against top-5 opponents. While the Huskies cashed in against Kansas, the Bulldogs got stomped by Villanova. But Gonzaga is still the favorite for a reason. Their losses have come against a pair of very good teams in Florida and Nova and they also have a trio of wins against top-75 opponents in Texas, Ohio State, and Creighton.

In addition to the 5 starters mentioned above, Gonzaga also has a pair of players in freshman Zach Norvell (11.3pts) and sophomore Rui Hachimura (9.1pts) averaging 9+ to give them seven total. Whereas Kansas was incredibly thin and susceptible to foul problems Gonzaga is one of the deepest teams in the country and any player can take over on any given night. They’ve had 5 different players lead them in scoring and 4 different players do it twice through just 9 games.

The Bulldogs can spread you out with 5 capable shooters but they still are at their best when they get the ball closer to the rim. They’re 12th nationally in 2-pt% (59.5%) and 64th in 3-pt% (38.6%). But four of their top 7 players take the majority of their shots from deep so they’ll bomb it from outside until you adjust and then attack the middle.

On defense, opponents have actually shot better from deep against Gonzaga than against Washington and they are content to let you shoot them. That should be effective against UW who normally struggles shooting from deep. However, if Matisse Thybulle has finally found his stroke after the KU game then that will help. They’ve stifled opponents close to the rim despite lacking a truly elite shot blocker so it will be strength on strength when Noah Dickerson gets the ball.

Washington has just been flat out non-competitive the last two years against Gonzaga. This year’s Bulldogs squad is definitely worse than last season’s and it appears the reverse is true for Washington. But how much has the gap closed? It’s tough to tell whether the Kansas game is a signal that the Huskies have finally put it all together or whether it was an aberration. Hec-Ed should be the most raucous it’s been in years today which hopefully will be worth an extra basket somewhere along the line. Wednesday’s game gave me some confidence that UW can keep this close but I’m still not ready to predict an upset against a top-25 squad until I can see it one more time.

Prediction

Washington Huskies-71 , Gonzaga Bulldogs- 78

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