At this point in the year, the Zags were supposed to be 1-0, or maybe, just maybe, 0-1. If you thought Gonzaga would be 0-0, go home. But that is the case now, as Gonzaga essentially opens it season against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in Spokane.
As we all remember, the Gonzaga and Pittsburgh game in Okinawa was called after the first half due to horrible court conditions. Not a huge surprise anywhere, but that is happens when you try and construct a basketball court where a basketball court has never been.
It was the ultimate tease. Gonzaga fans have been pining to see how this team would stack up against actual competition, and even though Gonzaga entered the half against Pitt down by two, the conditions make it hard to make definitive statements. After Wednesday, we'll at least have some stats to look at.
Meet the opponent
Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, 0-1, KenPom #205
The Lumberjacks lost much of their backcourt last season when Aaseem Dixon and Quinton Upshur graduated, and it remains to be seen how much of their fast-paced offense went with it. Last season, Northern Arizona was fifth in the nation in total field goal attempts and No. 42 in three point attempts. They were No. 33 in free throw attempts to top it all off.
Only issue -- all those shots weren't good shots. Northern Arizona shot a mere 40.4 percent as a team (No. 306 in the nation). The Lumberjacks opened the season against Washington State with a 12-point loss. They will also be a winded team by the time they show up in Spokane. Northern Arizona plays Boise State on Monday, and Gonzaga will be the teams third game in six days.
What to watch out for
The big three (again)
The experiment of Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski didn't seem to be doing so hot against Pittsburg. But then again, outside of Wiltjer, the only other thing that was hot was the overall temperature in Camp Foster. There has been a lot of chatter from a lot of people and the consensus seems to be a big fat HELL NO COACH FEW on seeing those three on the court at the same time.
But, here is the thing: the court in Okinawa was a skating rink. Knee jerk reactions are one thing, but this season is a long grind. Like it or not, Few is still figuring out how best to use the personnel that he has, and he will do his due diligence in finding out if the big three headed monster works at the same time. To do that, he at least needs a court in working condition.
Who steps up at guard?
The backcourt was a little tentative in the game against Pittsburgh. But, same point for above -- it is hard to read too much into that. We all saw what happened to any player that tried to be explosive in that game. The combination of Josh Perkins and Eric McClellan didn't seem to be doing too much right on the offensive end. Silas Melson showcased a nice bolt of energy with a couple of baseline floaters. If the above mentioned monstrosity front line is to work out (at all), the Gonzaga backcourt will need to keep defenses honest. That was a struggle on Friday.
Let's see some of Bryan Alberts and Ryan Edwards.
Here are the long lost backups of the backcourt and frontcourt, respectively. Both players saw limited minutes against Pittsburgh, but should probably see more minutes against Northern Arizona (assuming the game goes as it probably should). No one quite knows what to expect from Edwards, and everyone knows even less about Alberts. Both could be very important pieces of this Gonzaga team, however, as the Bulldogs aren't exactly deep in the frontcourt if someone were to go down with injury, illness, or fouls.
Northern Arizona isn't a half bad team. They play in the Big Sky Conference and knocked off Saint Mary's on the road last season. That said, their tallest player is Jordyn Martin and Ako Kaluna, both standing at 6'7. Gonzaga has more size and strength at every position and should be able to bully the Lumberjacks all over The Kennel.
Gonzaga 80, Northern Arizona 60