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Gonzaga vs. San Francisco game preview: First road game of the conference

The Zags face their hardest WCC contest to date.

NCAA Basketball: St. Mary’s at San Francisco D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs head into the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco Dons in the Zags’ first road game of conference play.

Gonzaga is coming off one of its most impressive defensive outings this year, holding the Pacific Tigers to just 36 points in a win on Thursday. Pepperdine nearly stole one away from San Francisco, who were able to hold off in a 72-69 win.

Meet the opponent

San Francisco Dons, 14-2, KenPom #45

The Dons are the darlings of the WCC storyline this year, and why not? Led by senior guard Frankie Ferrari, the Dons boast the best defense in the conference. Their defense resembles the team defense of the 2017 Zags quite a bit. There isn’t a lot of shot blocking here, and although the Dons pressure, the key to success for them is a sound strategy of communication. Teams only shoot 45.2 percent from two-point, the No. 34 mark in the country, and they hold opponents to just 44.1 eFG%, the No. 13 mark in the country.

Sophomore guard Charles Mineland leads the team at 15.4 points per game, but Ferrari is the emotional leader of this squad. Jordan Ratinho can bury it from three. The rest of the guards can shoot from long as well, but the Dons rely more heavily on inside jumpers. Combined with the fact that they don’t turn the ball over very much, this year, San Francisco is an efficient offense with a good defense. In an away game, that is more than enough to make some trouble.

What to watch out for

How does Gonzaga respond to the defensive pressure?

The Zags are riding a six-game winning streak, and, coincidentally, they have played six not-so-great teams in that time span. San Francisco is different. This is a squad that many bracketologists are placing in the NCAA Tournament bubble picture—ahead of the usual WCC culprits of Saint Mary’s or even BYU. The Zags have been able to do exactly what they wanted in the previous six games. Tomorrow, that will not be the case.

How does San Francisco respond to the offensive pressure?

This is the other big question hanging in the air. San Francisco hung with Buffalo in a loss, and they were able to stifle Saint Mary’s offense in a win this year. That said, they haven’t seen an offense as explosive and athletic as Gonzaga’s. San Francisco is going to have to give it their all on defense to stay in this game, and that could provide the Zags with a way to squeak by if the Dons are gassed on offense.

The atmosphere.

This is the best San Francisco has been in years. Gonzaga is still a top-5 team. The Dons have a legitimate shot at knocking Gonzaga off the rocker—KenPom has this as the second words of odds of victory for Gonzaga the rest of the season. The War Memorial Gymnasium is going to be as hostile as possible, and it should prove to be a damn fun time.