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Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara game preview: Back at home to take on Jared Brownridge and company

Possibly our last time to enjoy one of the WCC greats.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs return home to face the Santa Clara Broncos on Saturday, Feb. 4, as the undefeated season and quest for a No. 1 seed continues.

The Zags broke the No. 1 ranking curse that has afflicted many of teams this season, and downed the BYU Cougars thanks to another insane performance by Nigel Williams-Goss. The Zags still have tonight’s game, but with a 99 percent win expectancy by Ken Pomeroy, hopefully the curse will be avoided.

Santa Clara fell to Saint Mary’s at home, but then went on the road and jammed a helpless Portland team’s face into their freezing rain laced sidewalks. Jared Brownridge tempered down last week, but he is always one of the more dangerous players in the conference.

Meet the opponent

Santa Clara Broncos, 13-11, KenPom #152

This is going to be a night and day chance from playing BYU on Thursday. BYU is one of the quickest paced teams in the nation, and Santa Clara is allllllll the way at the other end of the spectrum. They are still capable of hanging with teams in a bizarre way that seemingly only Santa Clara can, and a lot of that has to do with the talents of Jared Brownridge.

Tonight, we have to pour one out for our departed friend. Say what you will about the opposition, but Brownridge has always been one of the most electric players to watch in the conference, especially when he is hot. Unfortunately, he isn’t hot all the time. Brownridge has been rather inconsistent this season. In his first two conference games, he scored a combined 13 points. Against Pepperdine, he dropped 30 points. He is a volume shooter from long range, having attempted over 10 three pointers in a game 10 different times this season (including against Gonzaga when he hit 6-of-12).

That sort of range makes him a constant threat, unfortunately, the Broncos don’t have enough other threats to assist their star player. KJ Feagin and Nate Kratch also shoot the ball well from long range, but this one-sided game plan makes it easy to defend. 47.5 percent of Santa Clara’s shots are threes, which is ranked as the ninth-highest in the nation. This reliance removes their ability to generate offense in other facets, like at the free throw line, where their FTA/FGA is one of the lowest rates in the nation.

What to watch out for

This is Nigel Williams-Goss show now. Enjoy the ride.

At the beginning of the year, there was a question of whose team this was. The simple answer, at the time, was everyone’s. Every member of this squad was chipping in more than enough, and the Zags were often led in points by a player scoring merely 12 or 13. Not anymore, the 2016-17 Zags belong to Williams-Goss.

The 36 point explosion against San Francisco introduced the notion, and the 33 point execution of the BYU Cougars cemented the fact. Realistically, not a minute to soon either. Not that there is anything wrong with completely selfless game play, but the Zags would eventually need to identify a go-to player. That player is clearly Williams-Goss, and the Bulldogs got that more dangerous because of it.

Enjoy Jared Brownridge.

I’m going to go right out here and say it: I think one of the sadder things in the past four years is no Santa Clara trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Arizona Wildcats saw it happen multiple times, when Brownridge dragged the Broncos kicking and screaming to almost-upsets multiple times. Brownridge was a special scoring talent in the WCC, and it would have been amazing to watch some No. 14 ranked Broncos knock off a No. 3 ranked team after Brownridge dropped 40 points on them.

Game info:

  • Time: 7:00 pm PT
  • TV: ESPN2
  • Radio: Gonzaga IMG Network
  • Online: WatchESPN