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Game Preview: Zags vs. Baylor

Another test in the Zags’ non-conference gauntlet

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Gonzaga Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs will hit the road for a true neutral site matchup with the Baylor Bears on Friday night. The Zags and Bears will face off at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., in a rematch of the 2021 national title game

Gonzaga’s gauntlet of an early non-conference schedule continues with Baylor, as the Zags will look to build off momentum from the Xavier win and add another signature win against the #6 Bears. This is the Bulldogs’ second time playing in Sioux Falls, having defeated a Luka Garza-led Iowa team there in December 2020.

Meet the opponent

Baylor Bears (5-2, #15 KenPom)

Baylor is looking to bounce back after a 26-point shellacking at the hands of unranked Marquette on Tuesday. The Bears have split their two matchups with ranked opponents this year, falling to Virginia and beating UCLA at the Main Event tournament in Las Vegas.

Scott Drew’s squad is led by the strong backcourt duo of L.J. Cryer and Adam Flagler, both of whom are averaging over 16 points per game. They also feature a familiar face to Zags fans in former BYU pest Caleb Lohner, who leads the team with five rebounds a game.

What to watch for

Defense, specifically on the perimeter: Peter outlined this in more detail earlier this week, but the Zags’ defense has been subpar for much of the early season, a big part of the reason why they lost by 15+ points to Texas and Purdue. Their defensive metrics are far worse to start the year than they have been in previous seasons, and that starts on the outside. No Chet Holmgren or Brandon Clarke down low puts an onus on the guards to cut off driving lanes and close out on shooters.

Ben Gregg minutes: The sophomore big man showed out during an extended run in the PK85, effectively taking over for Efton Reid as the primary backup to Drew Timme and Anton Watson. His hustle plays, defensive intensity, and ability to spread the floor should translate into more time on the court going forward.

Hickman running the point: Turnovers have been Gonzaga’s biggest issue on offense, but Hickman has done his best to control that from the point guard position. His 7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during three games in Portland was indicative of someone who can serve as a reliable floor general from here on out, something this team sorely needs.