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Santa Clara vs. Gonzaga: Game Preview

Senior Night coupled with a potential homecoming

Gonzaga v Central Michigan Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Santa Clara Broncos enter the Kennel for tomorrow’s Senior Night festivities. The event promises to have a homecoming feel with the potential for several former Zags who currently play in the NBA to be in attendance.

Regardless of who’s in the crowd, this a celebration of seniors Andrew Nembhard, Rasir Bolton, Matthew Lang and Will Graves. It may also be the last time we get to see those seniors, Chet Holmgren and one or two other Zags play at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Meet the opponent

Santa Clara Broncos 18-9, 8-4 WCC (3rd), #77 KenPom

Currently sitting a solid third in the WCC, Santa Clara hasn’t finished a conference season this high in the standings since the 06 – 07 season when they had twin towers of Sean Dennison and John Bryant.

The Broncos had some controversy this week with their last-minute cancellation of a Monday make-up game at Portland against the surging Pilots. ESPN mentioned the Broncos as “bouncing around the bubble” and a loss at Portland would have certainly killed their slim chance at a tourney bid.

When they played a little over a month ago, the Zags dropped 115 in a 32-point victory at the Leavey Center. The Broncos lost their next contest against St Mary’s but have been solid ever since going 7 – 2 over their next nine games defeating BYU and winning the rematch against St Mary’s. The only two losses were against USF.

With the KenPom’s 39th ranked offense, the Broncos are led by their two WCC preseason first-teamers Jalen Williams (18 ppg) and Josip Vrankic (14.9 ppg). Keshawn Justice is their leading rebounder at 7.6 boards per game and also a potent scorer averaging 13.5 points per contest.

What to watch out for

Return to triple digits

The Kennel will be rocking Saturday night and look for Gonzaga to make up for their sloppy play against Pepperdine by impressing some of their former teammates in the stands. These teams combined for 198 points the last time they played and, with Santa Clara averaging 70.4 possessions per game along with a below average defense, this should be another incredibly fast-paced, high-scoring affair.

Drew Timme dropped 32 points against the Broncos the last time they met and kept Josip Vrankic in foul trouble the entire game. Vrankic scored only 6 points in 18 minutes of play. Now the Broncos big will also have to deal with a confident Chet Holmgren and a rejuvenated Anton Watson.

With Gonzaga closing out the regular season at San Francisco and Moraga, this could be the last opportunity for the bench to get any run this season. Wouldn’t it be great to see Lang and Graves possibly end their Gonzaga careers (they both stated they may play elsewhere next season) with tacos.