The Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrate the holidays by inviting the North Alabama Lions into Spokane for what is most likely going to be a slaughter.
The Zags are rolling off of one of the biggest wins against Denver University in school history, an 101-40 walloping in which the defense limited Denver to just 0.55 points per possession.
If Denver is bad, North Alabama is worse. This is the Lions first season in Division I. They only own three wins on the season, and all three of those wins have come against D-II or III opponents. North Alabama does not own a single win against its Division I peers, and is currently riding a three-game losing streak.
Meet the opponent
North Alabama Lions, 3-10, KenPom #325
The Lions are one of the shortest teams in basketball, and by all accounts, this game should get really ugly, really fast. Center Cameron Diggs stands tall at 6’9, power forward Kendall Stafford is just 6’4, winger Christian Agnew is 6’2, two-guard Jamari Blackmon is 6’0 and point guard Kendarius Smith is 5’10. For perspective, Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell is 6’5.
That isn’t going to stop players from getting their buckets, however. Blackmon leads the team at 16.2 points per game, shooting a somewhat astonishing 31.7 percent from the floor in the process. The man has never seen a shot he didn’t like, and unfortunately, many of those shots don’t find the net.
What to watch out for
Another glimpse of the young guards.
In the past two games, Joel Ayayi has picked up 12 minutes per contest. Greg Foster has been a bit less, combining for 17 minutes. Either way, this is the opportunity we have to witness what the future backcourt will provide—because when Geno Crandall returns from injury, both Ayayi and Foster will be relegated to complete garbage time minutes. A lot of fans are interested in both players considering Josh Perkins and Crandall will graduate this season, leaving the Zags with no natural point guards. Foster has looked pretty decent managing the offense, and Ayayi’s skill seems to be playing off the ball. Some more playtime in these waning conference games will be a good indicator.
Good luck staying engaged during the game.
In our mailbag this week, someone asked how to stay engaged during WCC play when the Zags are almost guaranteed to win. We had our answers, but I have no answers for this game. North Alabama is a completely overmatched team in this contest. It is hard to imagine the Zags pulverizing a squad more than Denver, but there is a high probability. This might be a game to have on in the background while enjoying time with family and friends.