The Bulldogs are coming off of a successful trip to New York City over Thanksgiving weekend where Gonzaga topped Georgia and St. John's to win the NIT Preseason Tournament championship crown. There were some good showings, specifically a 32 point explosion by Kyle Wiltjer and a hard-fought win against a tough-nosed team in St. Johns.
Gonzaga didn't escape unscathed, however. Josh Perkins went down with a broken jaw in the game against Georgia, and because of it, the world saw Silas Melson burn his red-shirt to fill Perkins 20-plus minutes per game.
This game is a RPI buster for the Zags, but it is also one that can't be looked by. Good teams lose to bad teams all the time. If Gonzaga is indeed going to make the Final Four this season, they need to land on both feet every jump along the way.
Meet the opponent
Southeastern Louisiana Lions, 2-5 (Southland), KenPom #303
The offense for the Lions begins and nearly ends with junior point guard Zay Jackson. He averages 15.7 points and 4.0 assists per game, while seeing the court for just a shade over 37 minutes at a time. In fact, as far as percentage of a team's minutes seen on the floor, Jackson is ranked No. 13 in the nation. The Murray State transfer would be an even more dangerous floor general if he could keep better track of the ball. Jackson averages nearly five turnovers a game, and his 34 total turnovers on the season are good for third-most in the nation.
On the inside, the Lions turn to senior center Devonte Upson, who is quietly having himself a nice season averaging 10.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Upson is an athletic, if undersized, center who chips in 1.9 blocks per game and snares approximately three offensive rebounds per game. He is a smart shooter that plays close to the basket. He'll also need to have a huge game against the size of Gonzaga. The Lions are one of the shorter teams in the nation with their average height of 6'3 good for 315th in the nation.
The Lions are 2-5 for a good reason. They don't do anything particularly well as a team. They huck up a lot of shots and keep the pace running, but as a team average 41.5 percent from the floor and 27.8 percent from three point range. Of course, with such a pace, Southeastern Louisiana could just as easily theoretically drop 85 points instead of 66 if Gonzaga isn't careful.
What to watch out for
Let's see what Silas Melson can do.
Silas Melson is no longer red shirting. He saw the floor against St. Johns for 11 minutes, and unless Mark Few changes his mind and has a creative way to get a hardship waiver, Melson's collegiate career is starting a year earlier than expected. Whether or not you agree with Few, the fact of the matter is that Melson is here to play this year, so let's figure out how to embrace him.
The coaching staff was huge on Melson going into this season, and lets not forget that he essentially dragged a kicking and screaming Jefferson High School through the Oregon state high school basketball tournament. Against St. Johns, Melson looked fearless, taking four shots and overall looking confident on the offensive end. If this game gets out of hand early, we should see a lot more of Melson. Those extra minutes will be extra key with the heart of the non-conference schedule rolling up.
Is Kyle Wiljter a Jekyll and Hyde player?
The Zags are just six games into the season, so early season trends are hardly something to close down practice and immediately figure out how to solve. But so far, Wiltjer, as great as he has been, has thrown up two total clunkers of games. One of those went unnoticed against Saint Josephs because the Zags won by infinity. Against St. Johns, Wiltjer's inability to look anything but completely lost was pretty noticeable.
The thing is, it is easy to right it off because without Wiltjer there is a loss against Georgia right there. Then the game against St. John's never happens and a new timeline is created. Gonzaga has only played six games and good players are allowed to have bad games. Games like St. Johns will happen for Wiltjer and that is a fact of life. But some early season trends turn into late season trends turn into season trends. It isn't something to focus on, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Time: 6 p.m. PT
TV: KHQ/ROOT Sports
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