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Gonzaga vs. Creighton game preview: Zags play first true road game of season

Let the onslaught begin!

Providence v Creighton Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

The Gonzaga Bulldogs get started on the most brutal two weeks of their schedule with a contest against the Creighton Bluejays on Saturday morning, 11:00 am PT, in Omaha, Nebraska.

Gonzaga is coming off their third 100-plus point game of the season with a nice and calming dismantling of North Dakota State on Monday. All five starters scored double figures in the game.

Creighton’s semi-surprising start of the season continued nicely with a 98-72 victory over Montana this week. Creighton was picked to finish ninth in the Big East, but so far, the Bluejays have looked much better.

Meet the opponent

Creighton Bluejays, 6-1, KenPom #21

Only one starter remains from the Creighton squad the Zags dismantled in Spokane last season. This year’s Bluejays are a young squad, but holy moly can they shoot the living anything out of the ball. Creighton is ranked first in the nation as a squad in eFG% and fourth in the nation in 3P%.

Sophomore guard Ty-Shon Alexander leads the charge with 18.3 points per game, taking over seven three-point attempts at a 47.2 percent clip. Damien Jefferson, Mitch Ballock, and Marcus Zegarowski all score in double-digits and, you guessed it, all can hit the three as well.

Years and years of randomly named players endlessly burning Gonzaga from three-point land is forever burnt into the collective memory of the fanbase, so this Creighton game is liable to bring back some ugly flashbacks. Nearly 40 percent of Creighton’s points come from beyond the arc. If the Bluejays continue to hit their three-point attempts at this pace, they can hang with just about anyone.

What to watch out for

The Zags have a huge advantage inside in this game.

Brandon Clarke is the elite shot blocker in college right now. Rui Hachimura is liable to go super-saiyan in any given game. On both the offensive and defensive end, the Zags are going to absolutely own this game in the paint. If the Zags throw out some different styles of defense, perhaps a bit of zone, the Bluejays will struggle to find open jump shots. Ty-Shon Alexander only takes a shot at the rim 16.2 percent of the time. Ballock is at a mere 8.7 percent (for comparison, both Zach Norvell and Corey Kispert take approximately 25 percent of their shots at the rim). If Creighton is struggling to hit or find their outside shots, this could easily end up quite poorly for the Omaha faithful.

The Zags are actually pretty good at defending the three.

The true measure of a team’s three point defense doesn’t necessarily lie within an opponent’s percentage—although Gonzaga is doing a good job here too (opponents shoot just 28.2 percent from long range). For Zags’ opponents, only 25.6 percent of their points are coming from long range, good for No. 305 in the nation. The Zags’ perimeter defense has done a nice job of limiting three point opportunities in the first place. Gonzaga’s defense is holding opponents to the fourth-lowest assists per field goal made ratio in the nation.

Let’s see how deep this rotation really is.

Mark Few gave Greg Foster Jr. a substantial look on Monday, providing the freshman with 20 minutes. That is only two minutes fewer than Foster has played all season. He doled out some assists and played a pretty decent game, but that was also against North Dakota State. With Geno Crandall sidelined, Josh Perkins is the only point guard on the roster with experience. So the question at hand is: Does Norvell back up Perkins at point, or does that fall to Foster? My guess is that we see Few shorten up the rotation. Don’t be surprised to watch Perkins play 36-38 minutes per game going forward for the next two weeks with Norvell taking over at point for a few minutes.