Did you see the news? Jeff Goodman with ESPN went out on a wild limb and picked the Gonzaga Bulldogs to win it all. Has he lost a screw? Potentially yes, but also maybe not. His accolades were just another onto a huge pile of preseason accolades for a team that hasn't played a single real game yet.
That all changes today. After an offseason that seemed to last forever, we have arrived at the glorious season of college basketball. Gonzaga has a number of high profile non-conference opponents this year, and as much fun as it would be to focus on the game against SMU on Monday, we have to give due diligence to the Bulldogs season opening opponent Sacramento State.
Meet the opponent
Sacramento State Hornets, 14-16 (last year), KenPom #275
The Hornets went 10-10 to finish seventh in Big Sky Conference play last season. A lot of that had to do with the fact that they are a capable scoring team without a capable defense to back it. A lack of experience played a part into that. The average experience for the Hornets last season was 1.60 years. In light of that, Sacramento State didn't lose too many players, so the majority of the squad returns with another year under its belt.
Sacramento State is led by its senior backcourt of Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity. The two guards are a bit undersized compared to the Gonzaga guards but are more than capable of burning opponents. Garrity especially has a deadly knack for the outside shot considering he hit 75-of-159 three-point attempts last season. McKinney is less of a three point threat, although he still hucks up a fair amount of attempts. He makes his bread and butter driving to the hoop, and does a pretty decent job of it after averaging 16.6 points per game last season.
The key to the Sacramento State game plan is a slowed down pace. Last season, the Hornets ranked 319th in field-goal attempts. What few shots the Hornets take, they make count by hitting 46 percent as a team. It is a solid game plan for a team that is often undersized and can't realistically compete against a larger team who likes to run (e.g. Gonzaga).
What to watch out for
Everything! There are a lot of things we have heard about and know going into this season. Kevin Pangos is fully healthy. Przemek Karnowski is still a huge man. Gary Bell Jr. is still one of the team's best on ball defenders. After that, things get a bit hazy. What will Byron Wesley bring to the squad? How well will Kyle Wiljter and Karnowski play together while on the floor? Where will the minutes come from for Kyle Dranginis and Josh Perkins? Will Angel Nunez see anything more than garbage time?
If anything, the slower pace of the game will be a good test for Gonzaga to see how well they can settle down and play a half court game. We all know that Mark Few and company love to pay a high paced game, so expect to see the Bulldogs get the ball and take off running. If Sacramento State manages to keep it slightly close, it'll be interesting to see how the Bulldogs respond. Slow paced teams have always been an Achilles heel of sorts for Gonzaga squads and if the Bulldogs are supposed to be playing deep into the tournament, that is something they need to figure out.
This is a game to sit back, enjoy and try to get a gauge on where the team is at. With all the hype coming in this year, the Bulldogs will be under a microscope for the entirety of this season. Let's analyze the data.
Time: 6 p.m., PST
TV: KHQ/Root Sports
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