The Sweet 16 just feels like a normal occurrence for the Bulldogs (6th in a row for the program) but the Creighton Bluejays now stand in the way of a 4th Elite Eight appearance since 2015. Can they keep it going? Come on, yes.
Take a look at fellow Jesuit institution, Creighton. The Bluejays live and die by the three-point line. Fans saw this in the Big East title loss to Georgetown at Madison Square Garden as Creighton was 9-34 on 3 PT (26.5%). In the first round of the NCAA Tournament against UC Santa Barbara, McDermott’s squad shot 7-25 on 3 PT (28%) and squeaked by the Gauchos by only 1 point.
As long as the Zags can control the perimeter, keep Marcus Zegarowski (especially), Mitch Ballock, and Denzel Mahoney from getting hot while only allowing a reasonable amount of three-pointers (under 11 makes in my mind)... I see the double-digit winning streak for the Zags continuing.
I would also add that Creighton isn’t the best free-throw shooting team at .650% on the season. With that in mind, continue to be aggressive on defense and force them to go to the line. I would rather the Bluejays shoot free throws on multiple possessions down the floor instead of them putting up three-pointers, a place they’ve been successful almost all season.
An interesting matchup to keep an eye on will be Drew Timme vs Christian Bishop inside the paint. Both have solid footwork, play with a lot of energy, and can be the turning point for each other’s squad. I saw that Creighton’s offense looked dull at times against Ohio in the second round but a couple of massive slams from Bishop turned the momentum completely around in favor of the Bluejays. Find ways to slow Bishop down near the rim and Creighton’s offensive team production will fall.
On the other side of that, get 20-30 points from Drew Timme and yea... I think the Zags are well onto the win. Timme’s offensive energy can drain a team and opposing Oklahoma fans saw that. The Sooners had a solid performance but every offensive spurt was stopped right away by a Timme spin and finish with the flex after or his ‘stache trash talking. A few offensive rebounds and putbacks from Timme over Bishop wouldn’t hurt Gonzaga’s momentum as well.
An interesting tidbit... In all 8 of Creighton’s losses this season, their opponents score 70 points or more. Gonzaga’s offense can put up that kind of number in their sleep since Gonzaga hasn’t scored fewer than 73 points in any of their games this season and has averaged 92.1 PPG this season (2nd highest in the nation).
Two fun offensive programs will be a delicious matchup. It all goes down Sunday at 11:10 AM PT on CBS at Hinkle Fieldhouse. And we get Ian Eagle on the call? I cannot wait.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho