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Gonzaga vs. Incarnate Word game preview: The slaughter before the storm

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Gonzaga has a tune up game before facing Creighton on Friday and Villanova next week.

NCAA Basketball: Incarnate Word at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After three grueling games in four days, the Gonzaga Bulldogs return to the friendly confines of Spokane to take on the Incarnate Word Cardinals out of the Southland Conference on Wednesday evening.

Gonzaga is coming off of a great showing at the PK80 Invitational in Portland over the holiday weekend. The Zags went 2-1, losing to Florida in double-overtime, beating Texas in overtime, and defeating Ohio State regularly.

Incarnate Word is your standard mincemeat schedule filler that doesn’t take the non-conference like a standard schedule filler. The Cardinals opened the season at home against three non-D1 schools, and other than Gonzaga, the rest of their non-conference schedule only struggles when facing Florida.

Meet the opponent

Incarnate Word Cardinals, 3-2, KenPom #264

The Cardinals are going to be severely undersized against the Bulldogs. Junior Simi Socks, the starting center, stands at 6’6. Jalin Hart, the starting point guard, stands at just 5’11. Keyton Hervey, who has started a few games at the three-spot, is the biggest matchup issue at 6’7.

The squad is led by the frontcourt of Socks and Charles Brown III, scoring both around 14 points per game. But again, this is also including three non-D1 schools, although Socks did score 17 against Houston the other day.

The big issue for the Cardinals begins and ends and middles around with Hart, who isn’t having the best go during his senior campaign. Hart, who averaged 15.9 points last season, is shooting just 27.3 percent and averaging 3.8 turnovers per game. Those are not the numbers your senior point guard can give you and have any hope of winning meaningful games. As such, the Cardinals haven’t quite yet.

What to watch out for

Let’s see some minutes for the bench

Rui Hachimura had his breakout game against Texas, and needs to be rewarded to get him ready for the upcoming games against Creighton and Villanova. But more importantly, Zach Norvell, Jeremy Jones, and Jakob Larsen were all rather quiet against Florida and Texas. Playing a team like Incarnate Word, at home, is the perfect way to get the game to come back. The Zags are going to need to operate with more than a six man rotation as the season progresses, but against Florida and and Texas, that is all they had working.

Hopefully no more lazy plays

Out of all of the great plays during the PK80 Invitational, there were a few really bad ones that stand out. In overtime, on two consecutive trips down the court, the Florida Gators caught the transition defense with its head up its rear end. The first time, Florida missed a wide open transition three, and the second time they hit it. One of those brain farts is one thing, but two back-to-back is inconceivable. Then, once the full court press kicked in, it took a couple of turnovers for the Zags to realize what was actually happening. For now, we can chalk that up to fatigue, but if continues against Incarnate Word, we might have some problems.