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NCAA Tournament 2019: Gonzaga vs. Fairleigh Dickinson game preview

It is the first time the two teams have met.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Four- Fairleigh Dickinson Knights vs Prairie View A&M Panthers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs will open their 2019 NCAA Tournament run against the No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights.

The Zags haven’t played a game since that beyond disappointing loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament Championship game, back on March 12. Hopefully, the time off is enough for the Zags to lick their wounds and figure out what the living $#*% went wrong.

The Knights used a big second half to push past Prairie View A&M in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.

Meet the opponent

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, 21-13, KenPom #208

Right off the bat when scouting the Knights, you will notice that statistically, they are one of the better three point shooting teams in the country, hitting 40 percent as a team, good for the fifth-best mark. Interestingly enough, however, the Knights don’t actually take that many threes—ranked No. 291 in the country in three point attempts.

Senior guard Darnell Edge leads that charge, hitting 47 percent from long range and leading the Knights with 16.4 points per game. He is one of five players scoring in double-digits for the Knights. Fairleigh Dickinson is a good shooting team, top 30 in eFG%, largely because of the squad’s ability to hit three pointers and free throws.

On the other metrics, there are some issues. The Knights have a propensity for turnovers and are one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the country. Fairleigh Dickinson’s only hope of staying in this game starts with limiting the number of opportunities for Gonzaga to score, and that will be extra hard if they don’t have a method for keeping the Zags’ front court off the offensive glass.

What to watch out for

How does Gonzaga respond?

This has been the question on the tip of all of our tongues since last week. The loss to Saint Mary’s was one of the most putrid offensive outputs in recent memory, if not long-term memory. That game planted a seed of doubt in a lot of people, national writers, but more importantly, fans back home in Spokane. Gonzaga rolled through the WCC, crushing its foes left and right, and Fairleigh Dickinson is as good as a middle of the road WCC team. Gonzaga established it can win these sorts of games by a huge margin, and truth be told, Gonzaga should. There is no reason this game should be measurably close for a long period of time.

Fairleigh Dickinson will test our point guards.

The Knights overall defense isn’t that great. Opposing teams shoot a high percentage and offensive rebound at will. Fairleigh Dickinson, as a team, do have some crafty little hands, and the Knights own a top 40 steal percentage. Gonzaga as a squad does not turn the ball over on offense too often. The Knights’ pressure will provide the perfect level of intensity for the Gonzaga guards to step into the NCAA Tournament against.