Last season’s Battle in Seattle left a sour taste in Gonzaga’s mouth. This Battle in Birmingham matchup is all about revenge and moving up the NCAA Tournament seeding ladder. A #2 seed could be in play with a win for the Zags.
Here is what Alabama’s head coach Nate Oats has to say about the premier program in Gonzaga and the looming Top-15 matchup. Sounds like the Tide will be zeroing in on Drew Timme and will not be giving him any breathing room.
This game will be a fast-paced, up-and-down matchup. Alabama is averaging 83.0 PPG while Gonzaga is at 80.6 PPG. Should make for some fun hoops but on the other side of that, careless passing is inevitable. Everyone knows about the Gonzaga turnover issue but Alabama is coming off a similar problem in their recent win over Memphis, 91-88. The Tide turned the ball over 19 times and it was extremely frustrating to watch.
Gonzaga has been a relatively solid rebounding team throughout the first third of the season (62nd in the nation at 39.2 RPG) but Alabama is a completely different beast. The Tide have been the top team when it comes to controlling the glass (1st in the nation at 48.8 RPG). The Zags are going to have to be near perfect at that aspect of the game if they want any sort of chance at winning. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) for Gonzaga from the tip needs to find a man off each shot, box out, and crash the glass harder than they ever have all season.
Alabama’s Brandon Miller (18.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 BPG) is going to be the best NBA prospect on the floor and will take away most of Gonzaga’s focus on the defensive end (Especially with the recent news of Nimari Burnett’s wrist injury that will sideline him indefinitely). The nation’s top freshman and a lottery pick lock can score on all three levels and does it consistently (39.4 FG%, 43.7 3P%, 82.1 FT%). Miller will be a problem all night long for Anton Watson but with Hunter Sallis’s recent emergence, it would be an interesting thought to throw him out on the 6’ 9” forward (even despite the height difference).
Another player to keep an eye on is Jahvon Quinerly. The Jelly Fam member’s career has gone far from as it was planned but still can explode at any time. The former Villanova Wildcat acts mostly as a facilitator for Alabama (team leader at 4.1 APG).
Gonzaga needs a W like this to wrap up their tough preseason slate not only for seeding purposes in March but for confidence heading into WCC play. The West Coast Conference games can really mess with a Gonzaga team’s head and this regular season will be a bit different thanks to the competitiveness throughout the entirety of the league.
You can catch the action between Gonzaga-Alabama on CBS tomorrow at 1 PM ET. Who isn’t down for some Saturday morning Fruity Pebbles and some college basketball?
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho