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Gonzaga vs. Northern Arizona Game Preview

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Time for a couple of tune-ups before WCC play begins.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Virginia Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After walloping the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are back at home for a couple of tune-up games before conference play begins. The Zags will play Northern Arizona on Monday, at 6:00 pm, and Dixie State on Tuesday, at 6:00 pm.

Meet the Opponent

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, 1-5, KenPom #333

By the KenPom numbers, the Lumberjacks will be the worst team the Zags will play all season. Does that actually matter? We watched the Northwestern State Demons make a closer game out of it last week. But then Gonzaga turned around and walloped Virginia as if it never happened.

Northern Arizona has essentially two scorers: guards Cameron Shelton (19.7 points) and Luke Avdalovic (11.2 points). Their third-highest scorer is guard Jay Green at 5.7 points per game. That is it. This offense is not very good. Shelton is a talent, however. He is the cog of the machine. He accounts for one-third of their possessions. He draws 8.3 fouls per 40 minutes, good for No. 12 in the nation. To put that number into perspective, Filip Petrusev drew 7.7 fouls per 40 minutes last season.

What to Watch Out For

The bench gets its time.

Against Virginia, Gonzaga basically ran a seven-man rotation. Oumar Ballo appeared for a slight 30 seconds before the first half ended. It wasn’t until the game was firmly out of reach that the rest of the crew joined the party. The point of these tune-up games is to get the playing experience for the guys who need it. Because the second contest against Northwestern State ended up being closer than it should have been, the bench mob didn’t get the minutes many were expecting.

We saw Pavel Zakharov for a couple of minutes against Virginia. Still no sign of Martynas Arlauskas, who looks to be behind Julian Strawther and Dominick Harris in the depth chart. Perhaps tomorrow is the time?

How does Gonzaga generate enthusiasm?

Maybe the Zags struggled because it was back-to-back games against the same opponent. Maybe they were looking beyond Northwestern State to Virginia. Either way, last Tuesday was not a good showing from the Zags. With five high profile games out of their first seven, how Gonzaga shows up for these “lesser” games, at the moment, is a big question. Northwestern State only trailed by 11 points with seven minutes left in the second game.

Understandably, there is a lot of excitement about Gonzaga at the moment. The constant chatter of finishing the season undefeated begins now. The WCC coaches play Gonzaga at least twice every season. Conference opponents tend to play Gonzaga more tightly. With two back-to-back games against sub-par competition, it will be interesting to see if this game is the 30+ point win it should be, or something a bit smaller.