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Gonzaga vs. West Virginia Game Preview

The Zags play the quick replacement for Tennessee.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - East Regional - Boston

The No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs head to a different neutral site (hello beautiful Indianapolis) to face the No. 11 West Virginia Mountaineers in another big time non-conference matchup.

The Zags, as we all know, are coming off two decisive wins down in Florida against the Kansas Jayhawks and the Auburn Tigers.

The Mountaineers looked pretty good in winning the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic, defeating South Dakota State, VCU, and Western Kentucky in three-consecutive days over the holiday weekend.

Meet the opponent

West Virginia, 3-0, KenPom #6

It was a disappointment when Tennessee was forced to drop off the schedule, but replacing them with a Huggy Bear coached Mountaineers squad is another great defensive test for the Zags. Last season, the Mountaineers finished with the third-best defense according to KenPom, and they return a majority of their squad from last season.

The Mountaineers have a talented backcourt, led by sophomore guard Miles “Deuce” McBride, at 16.3 points per game. McBride is a talented scorer and a disruptive force on perimeter defense. After Jalen Suggs opened up his collegiate career against Marcus Garrett, facing off against the defensive pressure of McBride is another tough test for the talented Gonzaga freshman.

Down low, Drew Timme, Anton Watson, and whoever gets some time at the four will have their hands full trying to contain Derek Culver. The 6’10 center has been a wrecking ball for the Mountaineers through three games, averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks per game. Between him, Oscar Tshiebwe, and Gabe Osabouhien, the Mountaineers snare 10 offensive rebounds per game right there. WVU boasts one of the better frontcourts in the nation.

What to watch out for

The rebounding battle.

Last season, WVU was the top offensive rebounding team in the nation. This season, through three games, they are ranked No. 9. The Zags did a fantastic job on the defensive glass against Kansas and Auburn. Maintaining that intensity against West Virginia will be necessary. The Mountanineers aren’t the scariest offensive team, but they have their fair share of capable scorers. If they are getting an extra 10-15 shots off of offensive rebounds in the night, it will make for a much closer game.

Can Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme, and Corey Kispert continue their hot streaks?

West Virginia presents some tough matchups for Suggs and Timme. Obviously, Kansas did for Suggs, and he was fine. However, through the first two games, Suggs, Timme, and Corey Kispert have combined for 71.3 percent of all of Gonzaga’s points. West Virginia is uniquely positioned to make life harder Gonzaga, which makes it that much more important for Kispert and Suggs to be hitting their shots. As long as they command attention, Timme is given a lot more space down low, because teams cannot pull a man off Kispert to double-up Timme.

Can West Virginia’s defense keep up with Gonzaga’s offense?

This is going to be the story for most big name opponents this season. Gonzaga’s offense looked untouchable at times against Kansas, and throughout the entirety of the game against Auburn. When the Zags are clicking on all cylinders, there might not be a team in the NCAA that has a chance at containing the damage. West Virginia has some talented scorers, but they are nowhere near Gonzaga’s level and will not win the game in a full out sprint.

Look to see McBride hassling the living hell out of the Gonzaga guards. Huggins has never been afraid of utilizing a full court press more than most coaches, and when you have a guard as good defensively as McBride, why not?

Gonzaga’s can counter by throwing both Andrew Nembhard and Suggs on the floor at the same time to maximize the number of ball handlers. But expect yourself to be cursing McBride’s name by the end of the evening.