The Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners will help ring in the new year as the Zags finish out their non-conference slate on Dec. 31.
Gonzaga is coming off of two impressive wins over lesser competition. The Zags delivered a historic thumping to Denver University. A week later, North Alabama did not fare much better as the Gonzaga defense shined as brightly as it has all season in a 96-51 win.
Cal State Bakersfield is off to a decent 8-4 start and is currently riding a five game winning streak. This game should be a bit closer, because the Roadrunners excel at a couple of Gonzaga’s achilles heels.
Meet the opponent
Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners, 8-4, KenPom #190
Offense is not the name of the game for the roadrunners. They have just three players averaging double-digit points, led by sophomore guard Jarkell Joiner at 12.5 points per game.
By all accounts, this should not be a close game. The Roadrunners offense doesn’t do anything enough to even remotely come compete against the Gonzaga offense. That is why the defensive pressure from the Roadrunners is going to be intense. The Roadrunners force turnovers on nearly a quarter of their opponents’ possessions—good for tenth in the nation.
If you’ll remember the last time the Zags faced a defense that aggressive, Illinois forced 22 turnovers and Gonzaga almost lost the first game of the Maui Invitational. Watch out for Taze Moore here, he doesn’t play very much, but his per 40 averages of 3.8 steals is more than enough to warrant attention.
What to watch out for
Cal State can offensive rebound with the best of them.
There are two ways this game stays close. First, the Roadrunners generate points off of turnovers. Second, the Roadrunners crash the offensive glass. Gonzaga is slowly working its way up to being a thoroughly mediocre defensive rebounding team. Cal State Bakersfield is a great offensive rebounding squad (top 25), and a lot of that comes from senior forward James Suber, who is top-15 in the nation in OR%.
More Joel Ayayi and Greg Foster please.
Foster showcased his athleticism and Ayayi looked energetic in limited minutes. These two players are the, as of know, future backcourt, so it is great to get looks at them running in the offense with the starting rotation. Specifically, for Foster, getting looks at a defense as aggressive at CSU-Bakersfield will be great for future development.
The return of Geno Crandall?
According to Jim Meehan with The Spokesman Review, Crandall might make an appearance tomorrow night. He has a visit with the doctor in the morning and might get cleared for contact. If not tomorrow, it sounds like Crandall will be back to open WCC play.