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Game Preview: Zags vs. Texas Tech

The 2019 Elite Eight rematch will take place in Phoenix.

NCAA Basketball: Merrimack at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga will hit the court for the first time in over a week when they face Texas Tech in Phoenix on Saturday. This will be the Zags’ last big time non-conference game before WCC play begins, so they will be looking to go out on a high note. No line has been set for this game yet by DraftKings, but the Zags will likely be slim favorites.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Meet the Opponent

Texas Tech Red Raiders, 8-1, KenPom #18

Texas Tech comes into the week newly ranked, as they broke into the final spot in the most recent AP Top 25 poll. Their ranking makes them the fourth Top 25 opponent in the non-conference for the Zags. The Red Raiders have one signature win so far, a 57-52 win over Tennessee last Tuesday.

Defense has been the strong suit for TTU in their first season under new head coach Mark Adams; Tech is ranked #7 by KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Red Raiders are led in scoring by Kevin McCullar and Terrance Shannon Jr., who tested NBA draft waters last season before returning to campus. They also feature a pair of strong mid-major transfers in Adonis Arms (Winthrop) and March Madness star Kevin Obanor (Oral Roberts).

What to watch for

Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object

The Zags will be going up against one of the nations’ top defenses in this one, and it will be a challenge for the #2 offense in KenPom’s rankings. The Red Raiders run a no-middle defense similar to the scheme employed by Baylor, which stopped Gonzaga’s scoring juggernaut in its tracks last April. TTU doesn’t have the same raw talent the Bears did, but Coach Adams is known as a defensive specialist who has gotten the most out of his team so far. How well the Zags are able to break down the defense and get the ball inside will likely determine how they do in the game.

Defensive Execution

It sounds a little obvious to say that Gonzaga’s offense and defense both need to execute in order for them to succeed, but sometimes the best analysis is the simplest. Texas Tech does not have near the offensive firepower of the Zags, and GU’s defense has been as strong this season as any in recent memory. If they can capitalize on that advantage, they should be able to get out in transition, which could help take pressure off the offense in the half-court.

Guard Play

The overall execution and output by Gonzaga’s backcourt will be a key factor in picking apart the Red Raiders’ defense. Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren take a large number of shots for the Zags, but they can’t do much if the guards don’t get them the ball. Andrew Nembhard in particular has had uncharacteristic struggles of late, with a nearly 1:1 assist to turnover ratio and a total of 15 points in his last three games. On the flipside, Nolan Hickman has been a bright spot recently, so it will be interesting to see how he is used and how he fares in the game.