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Gonzaga vs. Portland Game Preview

A young Portland squad comes to Spokane.

NCAA Basketball: Portland at Oregon Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs continue their romp through the WCC with a game against the Portland Pilots on Saturday.

The Zags are coming off a tidy win over LMU on Thursday and Portland is trying to create a win streak after defeating the Pacific Tigers, 64-56.

Meet the opponent

Portland Pilots, 11-9, KenPom #238

Sigh. Where do we start. Probably first to know is that this is the first year of Shantay Legans, who is looking to build off of his success at Eastern Washington. He inherits a roster that is essentially as brand new as possible for college hoops. The Pilots have just 8.5% of the minutes played and 7.6% of the scoring returning from the 2020-21 team.

With that in mind, Legans scheduled exactly how someone in his position should—rather easily. The Pilots had a nice non-conference record, but most of their games came against sub-300 KenPom teams. That said, the Pilots are playing hard, a bit overmatched for sure, but seem to be buying more into the philosophy than they did during the Terry Porter era.

The young starting core shows promise, led by sophomore and Fordham transfer Chris Austin at 14.5 points per game. Eastern Washington transfer sophomore Tyler Robertson follows up with 14 points per game. UNLV transfer Moses Wood chips in 13.9 points and Eastern Washington transfer Michael Meadows adds 10.9 points.

The Pilots rely heavily on the starting five, the bench accounts for less than one quarter of the total minutes played. Overall, the team is a work in progress. They don’t shoot the ball particularly well. They don’t defend particularly well. But they are a lot of new faces that might be able to make some noise in a couple of years—essentially, your standard WCC team.

What to watch out for

100 POINTS!

The Zags still posted an ORtg of 1.37 against LMU, but thanks to a slow start, they didn’t hit the 100 point mark. Portland traditionally plays at a higher temp than LMU, so there is a good chance that we will see the two teams racing up and down the court. In the end, that equation pretty much always favors Gonzaga.

Continued minutes for Hunter Sallis.

The young guard looked like he might have been crowded out of meaningful minutes early in the season. Granted, Mark Few hasn’t extended his leash too far in meaningful games, but, when given the opportunity, Sallis has looked every bit the five-star recruit we all expected. Against LMU, he played 17 minutes, scored seven points off perfect shooting, grabbed two rebounds, tallied two steals, and was all over the floor in the traditional Gonzaga glue guy sense.

A new Portland era.

Terry Porter seemed like it would be a slam dunk hire for Portland, but of course it turned out anything but. His five years in the WCC were as hapless as possible, with the Pilots tallying a total of seven conference wins (only one of those came in the last three seasons). Coach Legans already has two! It will be interesting to see if Legans is able to replicate some of the success he had at Eastern Washington and hopefully elevate what is often one of the worst teams in the WCC to a respectable level.