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Gonzaga vs. Howard game preview: Zags get a tune up this week

The Bison aren’t particularly good....

NCAA Basketball: Howard at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the good news for the Howard Bison is that Ken Pomeroy gave them a 0.1 percent chance of defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs tomorrow...good in the sense that 0.1 percent is higher than 0.0 percent.

The Zags have their first real “tune up” game of the non-conference. Often times, Mark Few schedules these glorified exhibition games at the beginning of the non-conference slate. Howard is the real down and outer rolling into Spokane at the beginning of the season. Texas Southern made the NCAA Tournament last year, and Utah State (on Saturday) aren’t exactly slouches.

Howard is seemingly doing better than probably expected through two games. Although they’ve lost both, the Bison fell by 10 or less points to George Washington and Indiana, which considering this was a sub-300 KenPom team last season, that is pretty good all considering.

Meet the opponent

Howard Bison, 0-2, KenPom #339

The Bison are a brutally young squad, the No. 287 most experienced squad in the nation. Howard lost their second leading scorer on the team last year to transfer, and two of the other top four scorers graduated. The lone hold out to continue the tradition is sophomore Charles WIlliams.

Howard’s major issue last season revolved around the Bison being a wretched shooting team. Last season, Howard was ranked No. 343 in the nation in 2P% and No. 347 in 3P%. To add insult to injury, they were the No. 314 team in FT%.

To start the season, not much is better. The Bison have improved their three point and free throw percentages, but are shooting a mere 33.3 percent from inside the arch. They’ve kept it close against a couple of better opponents (George Washington and Indiana), but this isn’t the most efficient offense in the world. In fact, Ken Pomeroy ranks them as the No. 340 most efficient offense in the world.

They do have a couple of up and coming freshmen to give some hope for the future. Guard RJ Cole has scored 27 and 23 points so far this season, and has shown a stellar knack for driving to the hoop and drawing contact (already shooting 20 FTs on the year). Zion Cousins had a good game against Indiana, scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds. The other big name in the scorers table is Williams, who has had a brutal start to the season. He is shooting just 34.3 percent from the field through two games.

What to watch out for

Is Corey Kispert the starter?

We are probably going to see some fluidity at that three spot, rotating between Kispert, Zach Norvell, and Rui Hachimura at points. Kispert got the nod in the opening game of the season and he performed up to the task. His filled the stat line exactly how you want to see it filled: some points here, some rebounds there, a few couple assists, and no turnovers. Kispert played like a true glue guy. It is too early to say the wing spot is his for the taking, but we got a glimpse of what he can provide to the team.

What does this team do when Josh Perkins isn’t on the floor?

Perkins had a very Josh Perkins game. He led the team with 20 points on stellar three point shooting, but in the eyes of basically everyone it was washed away by his four turnovers. Perkins, the rationale goes, is turnover prone (whether or not that is true is for a different post). Either way, Perkins is the lone point guard on a roster full of guards. As Keith pointed out after the game, the lineup of Melson and Norvell leading the helm was a bit uninspiring. One game isn’t enough to make a mess of things, but it will be interesting to see if the offense still flows even when Perkins is on the bench.

Jacob Larsen apparently will need to earn his minutes.

It was a bit surprising that Larsen only played for seven minutes in the opener. Even Jeremy Jones logged more than that. Larsen is coming off of a missed season because of knee surgery, and he might need a bit more seasoning to get into consistent game shape. Either way, he earned his keep in those seven minutes, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds. That is the good. He also turned the ball over twice and had two fouls. So it was sort of a mixed bag in the end, but it was promising to see some skill from the young man from Denmark.