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Gonzaga vs. San Diego game preview: Zags finally play someone not named Portland

The Bulldogs draw a home/away matchup this week in WCC play.

NCAA Basketball: Portland at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs will get to play a new opponent in the San Diego Toreros on Thursday night. San Diego is one of two remaining WCC teams the Zags still have to face, with the last being BYU next week.

Last week-ish, the Zags trampled over Santa Clara, Portland, and Portland in a rather easy fashion. The unfortunate by product of it all were the threat of injuries. Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins look to be A-OK after scares, but Killian Tillie went down with an ankle sprain against Portland and will be out for some time.

The Toreros are currently 3-5 in league play, but one of those wins came against BYU. San Diego followed that up with a nice win against LMU and then an absolute drubbing at the hands of San Francisco. Last time around, San Diego scored a grand total of 43 points. Oof.

Meet the opponent

San Diego Toreros, 10-10, KenPom #228

San Diego has a slight problem to their gameplan: they average 70.4 points per game but give up 71.6 points per game. Interestingly enough, the defense isn’t always the issue for the Toreros. San Diego does a great job at limiting ball movement, and opponents only get an assist on field goals made 45.8 percent of the time, which is the the 37th best mark in the nation.

Unfortunately, the offense isn’t there to back it up. San Diego relies heavily on shooting the three, and aren’t too bad at it, but the points distribution dries up pretty quick. Brett Bailey leads the squad with 17.4 points and Olin Carter III chips in 16.5 points. Cameron Neubauer adds 10.7, and then the drop off begins. All of those players also like to throw up a lot of threes, particularly Carter. He averages 8.2 attempts per game, and when he goes cold, San Diego tends to go the way of the buffalo.

Overall, this is going to be an ugly game for San Diego, who have no real size whatsoever to compete with the Zags frontcourt. Neubauer starts at center standing at 6’7, and freshman forward Juwan Gray will go up against Johnathan Williams standing at 6’8. Freshman center Frank Ryder stands at 6’10, but he is really the only height the squad has.

What to watch out for

Brett Bailey is a good wing.

Bailey is a big guy, standing 6’6 and weighting 205 pounds. The senior also is the focal point of the San Diego offense and he will try and give the Gonzaga defense fits. Bailey loves driving to the hoop (he has hit double digit free throw attempts five times this season), and relies more on his ability to draw contact than being a high volume shooter. That said, he will go nuts if he has to. If Gonzaga shuts down Bailey, this game is already more over than it already is.

It’ll be a bloodbath down low.

San Diego just doesn’t have the height to compete with the Zags, and this will be heavily exploited by the combination of Zach Collins, Przemek Karnowski, and Johnathan Williams. The Toreros just can’t matchup whatsoever with Gonzaga on that front, and the only way to try and contain any of our forces is to double team, which of course leaves the perimeter open. There aren’t a lot of ways that San Diego can do much in this game, solely based on the fact they will have no answer for Karnowski.

Who takes Killian Tillie’s minutes?

Tillie went down with an ankle sprain against Portland and won’t see the floor for a few contests. Theoretically, his void will be filled by Rui Hachimura, just based off of length, athleticism, and overall approach to the game. Tillie was a huge spark on all ends of the floor for the Zags, and it will be interesting to see if Hachimura can replicate that—especially considering that Tillie would arrive with Collins as the first rotation of subs simultaneously.

Mark Few could also decide to go a bit on the smaller front as well, and give some extra minutes to Albert. The final balance will probably be somewhere in the middle, but it will be a good opportunity to see some extended minutes from Hachimura and what he can provide. We’ve seen the athleticism and the energy, but we haven’t seen it on a consistent basis. Tonight will provide a good gauge of that.

Game info

  • Time: 6:00 pm PT
  • TV: KHQ/ROOT Sports
  • Radio: Gonzaga IMG Network
  • Online: WatchESPN