The last time Zag Nation was able to watch Gonzaga (3-0) was on December 2nd. Now, the best team in all the land is finally back in action and it’s a doozy. Iowa (6-0) already has an upper hand as they have played three more games than the Zags and Gonzaga just had practice with their entire team for the first time in over two weeks yesterday. That’s a quick turnaround for the Bulldogs and they don’t get a tune-up game. No, Gonzaga has to quickly get ready for a stacked Iowa roster.
If you thought Gonzaga’s offense was hard to stop, get ready for Fran McCaffery’s squad. Iowa has the best player in college basketball on their side in Luka Garza but the Hawkeyes have much more than that. They have deep ball shooters placed up all over the court. CJ Fredrick (55%), Joe Wieskamp (50%), Keegan Murray (38.5%), Jordan Bohannon (31.7%). Even Luka Garza (68.4%). He has drastically improved his outside shooting. The Zags have to make sure to switch on the pick-and-pop at the top of the key with Garza. That’s where he seems to feast.
Iowa ranks #1 in scoring at 100.5 PPG and #1 in assists at 24.0 APG. I got a feeling that this game will be like an NBA All-Star Game. All scoring, no defense. And honestly, that sounds like my type of game.
I’m really interested in watching two potential National Player of the Year candidates go at it in Luka Garza (29.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 69.1 FG%) and Drew Timme (23.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 60.4 FG%). Drew is going to have to be very physical against the bigger Garza. Timme is most likely going to lose the battle between the two skilled big men but how does Gonzaga win the war? Well, it’s going to be the toughest assignment the Zags have faced all season.
First of all, don’t put too much of your focus on stopping Garza because you will fail. You can only hope to slow him down, contain him as best as you can. Next, crash the glass like you’ve never done it before. The Hawkeyes are tied for the 26th best rebounding team in the nation at 43.0 RPG. This is where you can hope to slow down Garza. Make sure to box their leading rebounder out every possible possession and take away any second-chance points.
Finally, the most important task. Protect the three-point line. The Hawkeyes have an array of shooters and at 39.8% from beyond the arc, Iowa ranks as one of the Top 30 three-point shooting teams in the nation. If you can limit the number of triples the Hawkeyes make, you have a much better chance of winning this matchup.
I predict Gonzaga will come away with the victory in this potential game of the year, 91-89. If a regular college basketball fan for some reason still hasn’t heard of Jalen Suggs, then this will be the game those fans will remember his name.
Make sure to get up for gameday and tune into CBS to watch Gonzaga-Iowa in South Dakota at 9 AM PT on Saturday.
*Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho