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Gonzaga vs. Akron game preview: Time to Zap the Zips

It is the second meeting between the two schools.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi Valley State at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Akron Zips are braving the winter weather in Spokane to take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Saturday night.

It is the second all-time meeting between the two schools. The Zags last took down Akron in the 2009 NCAA Tournament behind 22 points and eight rebounds from Josh Heytvelt.

The Bulldogs are coming off of a fantastic win over the Washington Huskies and are looking to finish the non-conference undefeated. Akron bounced back from a loss to Creighton with a sound win over Coppin State.

Meet the opponent

Akron Zips, 7-2, KenPom #90

This will be an interesting opponent for the Zags. The Zips offense is led by center Isaiah Johnson with 15.2 points per game. The 6’10 senior is joined by Kwan Cheatham, and the duo will be one of the better interiors the Zags have faced this season. Johnson, in particular, is a threat down low, shooting an eFG% of 70.3.

Akron runs a pretty normal inside-out offense. The ball goes into the post, and if it doesn’t go up from there, either Noah Robotham or Antino Jackson are going to launch up a three. Between the two players, they average 10 three-point attempts. Both Robotman and Jackson aren’t the most consistent threat, but they can definitely heat up from afar. The Zags need to make sure they have the two locked down.

Overall, the Zips are a great shooting team, especially from close. As a team, they’re eFG as a team is 57 percent. From two, that number rises 58.1 percent. The Zips like to shoot the ball and they do it well. Nearly 40.3 percent of their points comes from long range, and they are adapt at avoiding the blocks down low. The Zags, defensively, will have a good test here.

What to watch out for

Lock down those perimeter shots.

The Zags three-point defense has been lights out as of late, and that will need to continue against the Zips. Akron’s offense, between the balance down low and the skill of its outside shooters, is designed to shred a zone defense to ribbons. Akron is a good enough shooting team that a man to man defense might end up working a little bit better than the zone, and that will be a good test. Gonzaga’s man to man defense has sometimes been suspect this season, and most of Gonzaga’s lockdown moments tend to happen when the zone is employed. Akron will be a good test for the Zags’ defense, and it will be interesting to see what Mark Few and company have in store.

Let’s see some more Silas Melson in the offense.

I’m an unapologetic fan of Melson, and he had a stellar game against the Washington Huskies. Melson finished with 10 points and hit a couple of threes in the process, but it was a nice building block for a player that has successfully reinvented himself this season. Melson’s ORtg is 113.5 percent, despite the fact he is only hitting 25 percent of his threes. Melson has shown more control on his drives to the hoop, and he is draining his free throws at a great rate. He has reinvented his offensive approach, taking better quality shots, and his performance on the court showcases that. Melson has always shown that he has the ability to score, so let’s see if he is really feeling it and ready to turn that corner.

Nigel Williams-Goss is turning into the late game option for the Zags.

NWG finally had his big explosion against the Washington Huskies, finishing the game with 23 points. In the past five games, he is averaging 15.6 points per game. The Zags have been one of the more balanced squads in the entire nation, but they also haven’t shown they have a player that will take over the game in those panicked situations. NWG should be that player from the beginning, and it looks like he is stepping into that role one game at a time.