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Gonzaga vs. BYU: Game Preview

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The Yoeli Childs-less Cougars are shooting for the upset.

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs host the BYU Cougars on Saturday in a matchup between two of the top teams in the West Coast Conference.

Meet the Opponent

In their first year since the Dave Rose era ended, the Cougars are having one of their best years in recent memory. They are a top 30 KenPom team and have done quite an admiral job, considering that Yoeli Childs, their best player, hasn’t been available to play for much of the season due to a combination of NCAA suspension and is now recovering from a finger injury. He is not expected to play against Gonzaga.

Much of the squad consists of largely familiar faces. TJ Haws is going to be there shooting the ball from all over the place. Zak Selijaas is going to be cleaning up on the defensive glass. Childs, who most likely won’t play, would possibly be the best player on the court not named Killian Tillie. The Cougars do have a couple of new faces this season in senior guard Jake Toolsen and junior guard Alex Barcello.

Toolsen actually started out at BYU, transferred to Utah Valley, and then graduate transferred back to BYU. He is averaging 14 points per game and is a force from three-point range, hitting 44 percent. Barcello arrived at BYU after transferring from Arizona, and is averaging nearly 10 points per game.

Combined with the offensive firepower of Haws, and BYU arguably has the best offense in the WCC outside of Gonzaga. If anything, this should be a fun scoring match to watch.

What to watch out for

How does Gonzaga’s defense hold up?

The defense has been the question throughout this season, and BYU is going to provide the hardest test since the Arizona Wildcats. The Cougars’ offense is ranked No. 14 by KenPom, the highest mark since Arizona’s No. 13 by a large gulf. In between these two teams, the next best offense the Zags have faced was Pepperdine’s, ranked No. 68. BYU has plenty of experience winning in Spokane, and they have a potent offense to keep it close.

Gonzaga has to own the defensive glass.

BYU is one of the worse offensive rebounding teams in the country, so that matches up quite nicely as Gonzaga is one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the country. BYU’s offense is good, their three-point shooting is probably the best the Zags have seen since Oregon. The one difference is that BYU likes to shoot the three ball, a lot. If BYU is scoring three points in multiple trips down the court, Gonzaga has to ensure that it corrals every single rebound. Any extra possessions here and BYU has the personnel to burn Gonzaga.

Utilize the size advantage down low.

Even with Childs, Gonzaga has a few inches across the board. But Childs is one of the smarter, undersized big men in the country. He is also a big dude, giving up only about 10 pounds to Filip Petrusev while standing three inches shorter. Dalton Nixon and Selijaas are both capable human beings, but Gonzaga should be able to dictate how the game is played in the post. BYU has the guardpower to win, but Gonzaga’s bigs should be able to make the biggest impact on the game, both on the offensive and defensive sides.

Seven-man or eight man rotation?

In case you missed the news, Anton Watson is out for the season. Mark Few already runs a tighter ship. Does that mean the ship gets even tighter? I think we got the answer last night when Martynas Arlauskas did not emerge off the bench until the second half. Perhaps, he might get some early spot minutes in panicked times, but most likely, Gonzaga is going to largely run with seven players. Not a lot of room for further injury.