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Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine game preview: Lorenzo Romar comes back to town

Gonzaga hosts its first of two final home games of the season.

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Saint Mary’s vs Pepperdine Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs host the Pepperdine Waves for the final home stand of the season. This time around, there is a familiar face sitting on the Waves’ bench.

Gonzaga just stressed its way through the closest-contested games of conference play, defeating LMU and San Diego by merely 25 combined points. Tongue in cheek aside, each game was played more tightly than most games this season, and hopefully the confines of home will have eased the Zags’ minds a bit.

Pepperdine, under the guidance of new head coach Lorenzo Romar, have struggled in conference play. The Waves have lost four of their past five, with the win coming narrowly against San Diego.

Meet the opponent

Pepperdine Waves, 12-15, KenPom #159

After a terrible 2017-18 season, the Waves fired head coach Marty Wilson. Pepperdine’s record last season is the reason we haven’t seen the Waves yet, since the WCC changed the schedule up to reward the top teams in the conference with less drags on the strength of schedule.

The Waves are led by sophomore point guard Colbey Ross, one of the top point guards in the conference not named Josh Perkins. Ross is an elite pass distributor, ranking fourth in the NCAA with 7.3 assists per game. He backs that up on the offensive end of the floor, leading the Waves with 18.8 points per game. Ross is also one of the best guards in the nation at drawing contact, and he will provide an interesting litmus test to see how well the Zags’ defense can keep him from driving to the hoop.

Pepperdine’s other offensive focal point is junior forward Kameron Edwards, who is averaging 16.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Ignore, he is injured.

The Waves can bomb it from long range, holding a top 50 mark in team 3P%. They aren’t a particularly great shooting team, however, and much of their efficiency from long range is discounted by a rather sordid 2P%, ranked No. 230.

What to watch out for

Have bygones become bygones?

The public feud between Mark Few and Lorenzo Romar, back when he was the head coach of the Washington Huskies, has been published enough that even Bleacher Report picked it up as a top 10 coaching war. Plenty of time has passed for this all to become water under the bridge. I wouldn’t imagine anything to come out of this game in a negative fashion, and contrary to what a lot of Gonzaga fans like to type online, Lorenzo Romar is one of the class acts of the college world (he just might not be as good at the Xs and Os). Don’t expect the patented Randy Bennett blow-by here after Gonzaga wins by 40.

Pick up the pace.

Both LMU and San DIego succeeded in slowing the game down and dictating the pace of play in the first halves of each game. Pepperdine doesn’t play that style, and it isn’t going to benefit them at all against Gonzaga. The Waves offense just cannot compete, and outside of a lethal barrage of three pointers, there aren’t any signs that point to this as a competitive game.

Pepperdine will try and force turnovers.

The Waves’ defense isn’t great, but they do play an aggressive brand of defense focused on generating turnovers. LMU was able to force 10 turnovers on the Zags, so we should expect a defensive intensity from Pepperdine from the get-go. The only way for the Waves to stay close in this game is to generate offense off of their defense.