How to Watch (and bet)
Date: Friday, 12/9/22
Tip-Off Time: 6:00 pm PT
TV: Root Sports Plus
Streaming: WCC Watch
Radio: 950 AM
Location: Spokane, Washington
Gonzaga Bulldogs 2022-23 Statistics:
Points For per Game: 80.2 (30th)
Points Against per Game: 74.1 (256th)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 116.9 (4th)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.3 (36th)
Strength of Schedule: 6th
Gonzaga’s Key Players:
G- Nolan Hickman, So. 6’2, 180: 8.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 38.6% FG, 36.8% 3pt, 100% FT
Husky fans may still lament the Eastside Catholic grad getting away after decommitting from Kentucky. He has stepped up his game from last year entering the starting lineup and playing more true point guard but hasn’t quite made the leap Zags fans were hoping for after losing Andrew Nembhard (who looks awesome in the NBA). The 3-point shooting is good but he’s had trouble finishing at the rim when having to break guys down off the dribble rather than cut to the basket.
G- Rasir Bolton, Sr. 6’3, 185: 11.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 46.1% FG, 48.6% 3pt, 90.0% FT
Coming into last year Bolton had never made more than 36.1% of his 3’s in a season. For Gonzaga with the wide open looks they create he shot 46% last year and is shooting almost 50% this season. If Bolton gets a clean look you can expect it to go down. He surprisingly still has more 2-point attempts than 3’s so he’s not purely a sniper. But he’s absolutely not going to rebound the ball, or get steals/blocks on defense unless it’s by accident.
G-Julian Strawther, Jr. 6’7, 205: 13.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 41.9% FG, 44.4% 3pt, 80.6% FT
Strawther hoped to work his way into a 1st round pick by coming back to school and it could happen. He is one of the best defensive rebounders in the country especially as a 6’7 wing and also has become a deadly 3-pt sniper. Last year though he shot 66% on 2’s and that is all the way down below 40% now. With Hickman and Bolton leading the offense those super easy cuts to the basket aren’t there as frequently.
F- Anton Watson, Sr. 6’8, 225: 8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 57.7% FG, 25.0% 3pt, 55.6% FT
Among the starting lineup Watson is the clear 5th option but that’s okay when you’re shooting 68% on 2-point attempts. Watson is also their most versatile defender and will likely be assigned to shut down Keion Brooks Jr. He’s a solid enough rebounder for his size and a decent passer for a power forward.
F- Drew Timme, Sr. 6’10, 235: 19.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 62.4% FG, 57.4% FT
Timme has been one of the best players in all of college basketball for 3 years now and that hasn’t changed. He is an absolute marvel around the rim with his array of post moves and is capable of scoring at any angle in the paint despite lacking elite athleticism. His rebounding and block numbers are up this year without Chet Holmgren there to defend the paint for him. His efficiency is still dazzling as he’s making 2/3rds of his 2-point shots. He has only been held to fewer than 16 points once this season (a one-point loss against Baylor).
If you haven’t been paying attention it my be tempting to look at Gonzaga’s early 6-3 record and think they have finally taken a major step back. However, their 3 losses have come at #4 Texas, versus #5 Purdue, and by 1 point to #16 Baylor (KenPom rankings). The defense may have dropped off to merely very good with the loss of Chet Holmgren but the offense is still a top-5 unit in the sport and that’s what leads the Zags to be 9th at KenPom heading into this game.
The high end talent for Gonzaga is still almost as good as ever. Drew Timme is currently in everyone’s top-5 for national player of the year and it’s defensible to say he should be ahead of everyone except Purdue’s Zach Edey. If the Zags need a basket they can always just get the ball in Timme’s hands on the block and he has a great chance of putting it in the basket. If you decide to double Timme then he can kick it out to an array of phenomenal shooters. Gonzaga is shooting nearly 40% as a team on catch and shoot looks. There’s not a true weakness in the offense.
Where the Zags are potentially gettable is on defense. They play at a quick tempo which makes the points per game totals look worse than the defense as a whole. This year’s team is “just” 36th in defensive efficiency which is down from a unit that was bordering the top-10 each of the past 2 seasons. They aren’t great at very much on that end but also aren’t truly bad at much either.
The Zags are 39th in the country in defensive rebounding which makes sense with their frontline of Strawther, Watson, and Timme. They don’t force all that many turnovers though and are completely middle of the road in opponent 2-pt and 3-pt shooting. Without opponent adjustments this isn’t an intimidating defense. Then again, the Huskies haven’t exactly seen a defense yet whom they couldn’t turn the ball over against or couldn’t go through a tremendous scoring drought against.
Washington’s only chance to keep this close relies on Braxton Meah not getting into foul trouble. So far this year the Huskies have been a completely different team when he’s playing. With Meah playing, Washington is +24.6 points per 100 possessions and when he’s on the bench they’re -3.2. And most of that time was when Franck Kepnang was still in the game so it’s not just the massive dropoff to Jackson Grant and Langston Wilson. Meah has a tendency to get caught in the air and unfortunately I have the sneaking suspicion we’re going to see Timme abuse Meah a couple times down low with fakes and force him to the bench early.
The other thing to decide if the Huskies can keep it close is the 3-point shooting. Opponents are shooting just 26.1% against UW from deep while Gonzaga is making 38.6% as a team. If UW’s zone is truly humming and they can force the Zags to settle for contested looks without their feet being set then the Huskies have a shot. I’m more willing to believe though that Gonzaga’s tremendous shooting is more real than UW’s great 3-point defense.
The last time the Huskies played in Spokane against Gonzaga they were inches away from pulling off the upset. That was all the way back in 2019 when Rui Hachimura hit a turnaround jumper in the closing seconds to pull out a 2-point win. This Gonzaga team is almost certainly worse than that one but there’s also no way this hobbled Washington squad is equal to the Pac-12 winning one in Hop’s 2nd season.
It wouldn’t shock me if we see Washington get absolutely overwhelmed. If Grant/Wilson are forced to play huge minutes due to foul trouble then the Zags should be able to keep up a layup line on the interior with their size and skill. Gonzaga has only played 2 teams ranked outside the top-70 so far and have won by an average of 30 points. Then again the Huskies are much better than those 2 opponents even if worse than most the Zags have played in their early brutal stretch. I’m going to say we see Gonzaga get out to a 20+ point lead at some point but that the Huskies get it closer down the stretch to barely cover.
Max’s Record this Year: 5-4 Straight Up, 5-4 Against The Spread
Washington Huskies- 68, Gonzaga Bulldogs- 83