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Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine Game Preview

Both the Zags and the Waves begin WCC play.

NCAA Basketball: North Alabama at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Pepperdine Waves finally get to kick off their conference play after both teams were paused due to COVID over the past couple of weeks.

For the Zags, this will be their first time on the court since Dec. 28. Pepperdine has been off for even longer, last playing on Dec. 23. The two teams face off tomorrow evening, at 6:00 pm.

Meet the opponent

Pepperdine Waves, 6-9, KenPom #227

As expected, after losing Colbey Ross to graduation and Kessler Edwards to the NBA, it has been a rough going for the Waves this season. Some of the younger pieces have shown some impressive futures, but the Waves have not been able to absorb the one-two combo of losing their top two players by a mile.

The result is a somewhat talented offense that can sometimes score, but usually cannot. This is just not the year for the Waves, but they have the players to make some noise in the future. Freshman guard Mike Mitchell has a knack for drawing contact and an eye for the assist. He also turns the ball over 2.6 times per game, and is just not at the level he needs to be to fully run the offense.

The Waves’ offensive attack is balanced, but not potent. Junior forward Jan Zidek leads the squad with 12.4 points per game followed by freshman guard Houston Mallette’s 11.3 points per game. It is a Lorenzo Romar offense, so they like to play a bit up tempo, not as aggressively as teams in the past, but it is clear this season they do not have the pieces to put it together in a way that should legitimately threaten for an upset in this game.

What to watch out for

An ugly beginning.

Last night, the Gonzaga women took on Portland in each of teams return from COVID as well. At the very beginning, it definitely showed. We have zero knowledge of who tested positive, if they did so at home or on campus, etc. All that we do know is that the Zags probably haven’t practiced as a group like they normally do in preparation for the game. It will not be surprising if we see a few errant passes or a few sloppy turnovers to start the game.

A return to form for Drew Timme?

If you just look at Drew Timme’s stats across the board, you would note they are down and might wonder what is going on. The simple answer is Chet Holmgren. Last year, Timme was the lone option in the post. This year, he has Holmgren and a consistently aggressive Anton Watson to help shoulder the balance. So, in reality, the days of 20 points from Timme are bound to be fewer and further between.

However, since a 8-for-8 22 point game against Merrimack, Timme has shot 9-of-19 from the floor in his past three games, a decidedly un-Timme-like efficiency. Combined with his propensity for turnovers that has largely plagued him throughout the season, he has posted ORtgs of 101, 126, and 100 in his last three games. Last season, Timme dipped below an ORTG of 110 just three times.

For the Zags to romp and stomp through the WCC with glee, they need Timme running at his full mustached potential, which is a game of basketball almost entirely oriented around the efficiency of his offense.

More of the Hunter Sallis please.

The rotation is pretty much set as we know it for the season. Major minutes from Holmgren, Watson, Timme, Strawther, Bolton, Nembhard, and Hickman, and then everyone, including Sallis, is around to clean up the rest.

In three of the past four games (only six minutes against Texas Tech), Sallis has looked a bit more comfortable in the transition offense, hit his first three of the season, and continues to be an utter terror on the defensive end. The four turnovers against North Alabama were a bit much, but the youngster is showing himself to be a spark off the bench.