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Game Preview: Zags vs. North Florida

Basketball is back!

NCAA Basketball: Legends of Basketball Classic-Tennessee at Gonzaga Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: college basketball is back. The Gonzaga Bulldogs will kick off the 2022-23 season tonight as they host the North Florida Ospreys.

The beginning of the season brings promise and excitement for all 363 Division I teams, but the buzz around the Zags is as palpable as ever. The preseason #2 team in the country will look to keep that energy positive tonight as they take on a brand new opponent in the Kennel.

Meet the opponent

North Florida Ospreys (Atlantic Sun), KenPom #217

UNF will be making their first ever trip to the Kennel, and come in as the preseason #6 team in the A-Sun. The Ospreys were 11-20 overall and 7-9 in conference play last season, falling to eventual champ Lipscomb in the conference tournament.

They are an old, experienced team that returns each of their top three scorers from a year ago. Jose Placer (14.7 ppg), Carter Hendricksen (12.2), and Jarius Hicklen (12.0) all scored in double figures for head coach Matthew Driscoll, who is entering his 14th season in Jacksonville.

What to watch for

The Zags had one of the most electric weeks of college basketball’s offseason when Drew Timme, Rasir Bolton, and Julian Strawther all announced they were returning to campus. Mark Few and his staff also added two of the premier transfers in the nation in Malachi Smith and Efton Reid. Add in Anton Watson (how is he a senior already?) and the ludicrously talented sophomore class, and there will be more players than minutes available.

This is a strong roster with a mix of new and old faces, but it will be interesting to see how Coach Few manages his rotation, especially in the first half against UNF.

This team’s calling card is the offense. There is no doubting Timme, Bolton, Strawther, and Co. are one of the best, if not the best, scoring groups in the nation. Where questions could arise, however, is at the defensive end. There is no Chet Holmgren or Brandon Clarke in the paint as in years past. Efton Reid is a strong big man, but it remains to be seen how much he plays.

The Zags, led by Hunter Sallis, do have the potential for some strong perimeter defense, and having Anton Watson always helps. It will be difficult to pin all this on the first game of the season, but will be something to watch going forward.

Game info