Both teams have a much needed break, with their Friday games going into overtime. Gonzaga, unless you have been under a rock for the weekend, took Florida to double-overtime before eventually succumbing to a ruthless barrage of threes in the best college basketball game of the year, no questions asked.
Texas gave the the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils a solid run for their money, but a monstrous game from Marvin Bagley helped push Duke to the championship game. After a stellar day of basketball on Friday, it will be interesting to see if the Sunday games can even hold a candle.
Meet the Opponent
Texas Longhorns, 4-1, KenPom #28
The Longhorns will give the Zags their toughest defensive challenge of the season so far. It will be quite the departure from the Florida Gators offensive minded squad, in fact, it is harder to get a more drastic change. Texas is absolutely wretched from long range, shooting just 26.5 percent from beyond the arc this year.
This is a Shaka Smart coached squad, and they play lock down defense. A lot of that is helped by the freshman phenom Mohamed Bamba, a 6’11 center with a wingspan of approximately 18 feet. Bamba is already one of the top shot blockers in college, and he creates havoc underneath the hoop. He is largely one of the reasons opponents have a 42.4 two-point shooting percentage.
Duke had the highest shooting percentage of a Texas opponent this season, hitting just 44 percent of their shots. Other than that contest, Texas has held all their opponents to under 40 percent from the floor. The defense will test Gonzaga’s offense like no opponent has this season.
Texas gets some good offensive production from guards Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach Jr., but they aren’t a squad that will jump out to a huge lead. If Gonzaga can get out ahead, it will be hard for Texas to fight their way back into the game. The Longhorns are one of the younger teams in the nation and can get a bit frazzled, especially in the road environment of the Moda Center.
What to watch out for
How do the Zags respond?
Outside of the fact that the Zags played a double-overtime thriller against Florida and might still be worn out from two games in two days, that game was an absolute roller coaster of emotions. It will be interesting to see how the Zags respond to such a heartbreaking gut punch. Most of all, it will be interesting to see if the Zags are able to continue the aggressiveness that will be needed to punch through that Texas defense.
The bench needs to step up immediately.
It was hard to be too critical of Gonzaga on Friday night, but the bench is turning into one bizarre black hole. This makes no sense, because they are too good of players to be so complacent. Against Florida, in a game where Gonzaga scored 105 points (105!!!), the bench contributed five points. Things were a little bit better against Ohio State where the bench scored 22 points, but the Zags are going to need more production from Zach Norvell and Rui Hachimura, specifically. The drop off cannot exist like it did against Florida for too many games going forward.
This will be a battle of offensive versatility against sheer defensive will.
The Zags enjoyed a nice height advantage, for the most part, over Florida, but that will evaporate against Texas. Both Killian Tillie and Johnathan Williams will have their hands full against the Longhorns’ frontcourt. Even if Bamba is blocking shots left and right, the Zags need to continue to pound the ball in down low and take the fight straight to the Texas face. Offensively, Williams presents an interesting matchup for Bamba because of his versatility and ability to spread the floor. Tillie’s ability to run the floor will be invaluable for the Zags. Texas just faced an incredibly athletic squad in Duke, and the Zags are surprisingly athletic in their own right. If Gonzaga can pounce on Texas quick, the Zags might be able to take control of this game rather early.