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Battle 4 Atlantis: Gonzaga vs. Oregon Game Preview

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The first real test of the season.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Gonzaga at Southern Mississippi Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs face off against the No. 11 Oregon Ducks in the second round of the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.

Corey Kispert busted out of his funk in a real way with 28 points to help pace the Bulldogs past the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Joel Ayayi crept closer and closer to his first of what we assume will be many triple doubles, finishing with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. However, the biggest news are the injuries, of which, there are many.

Killian Tillie sat out the game because of his knee. Anton Watson played for a hot (literally) minute and left with an ankle injury. Admon Gilder left with an undisclosed knee injury, and Ryan Woolridge appeared to sprain/roll his ankle. In other words, there aren’t too many scholarship players left.

The Ducks battled back from a substantial deficit against Myles Powell and Seton Hall, pulling ahead with the tried and true method of airballing a three, only to have said shot cleaned up under the hoop for an easy basket. The Ducks, at No. 11 in the AP Poll, mark the first major opponent Gonzaga has faced and a very real test on less than 24 hours turnaround.

Interestingly enough, Oregon is one of the few schools to own Gonzaga throughout history. Oregon is 9-0 against Gonzaga all time, but the last contest between the two schools was back in 1999.

Meet the Opponent

Oregon Ducks, 6-0, KenPom #17

The Ducks have their backcourt nucleus of seniors Anthony Mathis and Peyton Pritchard (who seemingly has been around forever) providing a majority of the offensive firepower. Pritchard finished with 16 points and six assists against Seton Hall. As a team, Oregon has a high-level offense with an eFG% of 59.1, good for No. 9 in the country.

Oregon is a highly-rated team, and the win over Seton Hall (and for that matter Memphis and Houston) is not a fluke, but the Ducks are also incredibly raw and young. Where as Seton Hall had the height and the experience, the Ducks more resemble Gonzaga in terms of new faces. Oregon had the No. 4 ranked class in 2019. Five-star center N’Faly Dante is out for the first nine games, but five-star forward CJ Walker is with the team, making an impact already.

The Ducks rely heavily on the interior and do not get a lot of points from outside. Oregon still can shoot the three ball (Mathis is particularly dangerous), but it is not their bread and butter. Oregon is going to grind it out for some good looks near the hoop. They’ll draw some fouls along the way (Pritchard does this nicely), but as a team, the Ducks are not a good free throw shooting squad. If this game comes down to single digits, Gonzaga’s free throw shooting woes should be sadly matched by Oregon.

The youth can definitely show and it did against Seton Hall. The Pirates jumped out to a large lead and theoretically commanding lead. During that time, Oregon looked completely DOA. Much like quite talented and young teams are apt to accomplish, however, Oregon battled back and was able to pull off the win. It was a Jekyll and Hyde Ducks squad on the court yesterday, and that comes with the territory of younger squads that still need time to gel.

What to watch out for

Are any Zags actually healthy?

As mentioned above, of the standard eight-man rotation Gonzaga runs, four of the players either didn’t play or got injured on Wednesday night. If I know basic math like I do, that means Gonzaga can’t even run out a five-man rotation, which is why we saw Martynas Arlauskas for 15 minutes. Hopefully, Mark Few and the staff were being EXTRA cautious, knowing there are three games in three days, and not pushing the envelope. However, Tillie is recovering from knee surgery, he very well might have issues with that throughout the entire year.

As far as Watson, Gilder, and Woolridge are concerned, well, all we can do is hope for the best. If Gonzaga is going into this contest with a six-man rotation, we should adjust our expectations. Oregon is too good of a team.

Utilize the size advantage.

Oregon is not a good rebounding team, largely because they give up quite a bit of height down low. Gonzaga has a phenomenal advantage there, and should exploit it as much as possible—that means throwing Filip Petrusev and Drew Timme on the offensive glass at all times. Defensive rebounding is one of the Ducks’ major weaknesses. If Gonzaga can exploit that, they might be able to get enough extra possessions to make up for whatever injuries are lingering from the day before.

Corey Kispert needs to do Wednesday again.

After a 3-for-24 three-game stretch, Kispert rallied back in a huge way last night, scoring 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 7-of-8 from three point range. Not to beat a dead horse, but again, if the injury concerns are there tomorrow, Kispert needs to shoulder this offense. He is the major threat from behind the arc and without him, Petrusev and Timme will not be able to do as much damage down low.

Game info

  • Time: 1:00 pm PT
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: Gonzaga IMG Network
  • Online: WatchESPN