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Gonzaga vs Portland Preview: Conference Opener

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2020 starts out with a road game

Gonzaga’s first WCC game in 2010 was a road contest at Portland. It’s only fitting that they start 2020 in the same fashion. Over the last decade, the Bulldogs were 19-1 against the Pilots with the lone loss coming in 2014. The Zags have won 10 straight games in the series by double digits.

After getting their legs back from an eight-day break, Gonzaga beat up Detroit Mercy on Monday and set their eyes on a new conference season. Killian Tillie didn’t play against Detroit, and it would not shock me to see him on the bench again on Thursday so his various injuries have a full two weeks to heal before Pepperdine comes to town on Saturday.

Meet the Opponent

Portland Pilots: 8-7, KenPom 278

Terry Porter is back for his fourth season at the helm, despite going 0-16 in the WCC last year. His team started out 8-3, but have since dropped four straight. They are led by Maine grad transfer Isaiah White, who is averaging 13.3 ppg. Several rotation players from last year have graduated or transferred, leaving JoJo Walker and Franklin Porter as the key returners. Both average right around 10 points a contest.

Portland doesn’t shoot the ball very well, but they get to the line a lot. They’ve been held under a point per possession each of the last seven games. On the other end, they are in the top 50 in blocked shots with White and Jacob Tyron averaging more than a block a game. They defend without fouling, but give up way too many offensive rebounds.

Gonzaga should be able to use their size against an undersized front court. Tyron is 6’11 and Tahirou Diabate is 6’9, but they don’t prefer to play them together because it limits their offensive capabilities. They may not have a choice in this game. The alternative is throwing out 6’7, 185 pound Takiula Fahrensohn to guard Killian Tillie, Drew Timme, and Anton Watson.

We’ll see if Tillie plays, but it seems like Watson is over the ankle troubles he had since the Bahamas. His shoulder issue may persist all season, but the next two months are huge for him to get his confidence back on both ends of the court so Gonzaga has all eight players clicking when March rolls around.