Watching the Gonzaga Bulldogs dismantle Sacramento State was entertaining. Watching Gonzaga thrash the SMU Mustangs was pure ecstasy. Now, it is time for it all continue as the Saint Josephs Hawks come to Spokane as part of the NIT Preseason Tipoff.
Gonzaga, as we all know, looks good. I mean really good. The Bulldogs have won both games by an average of 31 points. Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis are pouring in the points and the defense is throwing fits for opponents.
The offensive machine is running about as smoothly as possible. The Zags have 44 assists off of 63 field goals. Opponents are having a much harder time finding the open man, registering 15 assists off of 39 field goals. Everything is clicking right now. A sleek offense takes the pressure off the defense, and that is exactly how Gonzaga has looked the past two games.
Meet the opponent
Saint Joseph's Hawks, 1-1, KenPom #100
The first of two opponents the Bulldogs face in the NIT Preseason Tipoff isn't exactly a marquee matchup. Saint Joe's is quite a few years away from being undefeated and a No. 1 seed. The Hawks 1-1 record fits it perfectly. Saint Joseph's isn't that great on offense and isn't that bad on defense. They are the epitome of a mediocre team and one that Gonzaga shouldn't have any trouble putting away.
The Hawks half a decent blend of youth and wisdom on the team, but lack a senior of real star power to take over for the team. Senior guard Chris Wilson has never been anything much more than a jack of all trades. He scores some points, averaging a career best 9.1 points per game last season. He chips in a few rebounds (averages 4.5 per game so far this season), and he hands out his fair share of assists. He isn't a particularly good shooter however, with a career field-goal percentage of 38 percent and a career three-point rate of 32 percent.
Saint Joseph's has a couple of good scorers down low and on the wing. Junior forward Aaron Brown averages 10 points per game and sophomore forward DeAndre Bembry adds 10.5 points per game. Both players are going to have their hands full keeping up with the Gonzaga front court. After sophomore center Javon Baumann tops out at 6'8, the next tallest player receiving meaningful minutes is 6'7 junior Isaiah Miles.
The Hawks haven't beat a ranked opponent on the road since 1979.
What to watch out for
Saint Joseph's loves the offensive rebounds.
Through two games this season, the Hawks have 31 offensive rebounds -- good for No. 31 in the nation. A lot of this has to do with the fact that through two games the Hawks are also shooting a totally lousy 37.7 percent as a team. A lot of misses allow the opportunity for a lot of offensive rebounds. Gonzaga hasn't allowed *too* many offensive so far this season, and with the severe height advantage in this game, that trend should continue. Still, the Hawks have a knack for grabbing them. Baumann, who only sees 17.5 minutes pr game, has grabbed a total of 10 rebounds this season and nine of them were offensive boards.
Can Saint Joseph's keep up with Gonzaga's pace?
The short answer is probably not. The long answer is a long-winded reason to say no. The Hawks have attempted 20 less field goals than the Bulldogs have this season. It hasn't helped that they don't do a good job of hitting the ones they even try. The Hawks adjusted tempo on the season is 65.1, which is good for 331st in the nation. The Zags, meanwhile, average a full five possessions more than Saint Joe's does per game. That may not seem like much, but it adds up when you force teams to run that aren't used to running.
Is this really how good Gonzaga is this year?
There was a ton of hype prior to the season. Two games in, the Zags have met that hype and then some. Granted, the only thing smaller than a sample size of two games is one game. Gonzaga has been nearly flawless in its past two games, and to a certain extent you almost expect the team to come down to Earth slightly. Those are negative expectations though, expecting a regress to a mean. What if right now is the mean? Each and every game will get us closer to that answer. If Gonzaga plops a 30 point win over Saint Joseph's like it is no big deal, I'll be that much closer to full out bathing in the juice.
Time: 8 p.m. PT
Radio: AM 1510 KGA (Spokane), AM 880 KIXI (Seattle), AM 1360 KUIK (Portland)