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March Madness 2022: Arkansas vs. Gonzaga Game Preview

A trip to the Elite Eight is on the line.

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Syndication: The Courier-Journal Scott Utterback/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Gonzaga Bulldogs face off against the Arkansas Razorbacks as each team looks to return to the Elite Eight.

Both squads are coming off incredibly tight second-round games. However, both teams ended up wildly different scores. The Bulldogs defeated Memphis 82-78, and Arkansas bested New Mexico 53-48. Eesh.

The Zags open the game as a 9.5-point favorite, according to DraftKings.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

Meet the opponent

Arkansas Razorbacks, 27-8, KenPom #18

Don’t let Arkansas’ last game fool you, this is a team that also likes to get out and run the ball, so we should be looking at a rather entertaining Sweet 16 game. The Razorbacks have four players averaging double-digit points, led by senior guard JD Notae at 18.4 points per game. Notae is going to be the main guy to watch when he is on the floor. He accounts for 32.6 percent of Arkansas’ shots, good for No. 23 in the country.

He, and many of the other Razorback players, are not particularly great shooters. Arkansas shoots just 30.5 percent from long range, good for No. 314 in the country. They are a bit better closer to the hoop, but still not at an elite level. Rather, they play a fast-paced style of offense that largely generates fouls, and a good chunk of their points come from the free throw line.

The Razorbacks score 23 percent of their points from the free throw line, that is good for No. 6 in the country (for comparison, Gonzaga is 15.5 percent, good for No. 302).

Otherwise, the trademark of this team, like the many Arkansas squads that came before it, is defense. This isn’t the 40 minutes of hell full court pressure, but the Razorbacks grind on every single possession. Their defense is ranked No. 14 by KenPom and they check all the boxes: effective at denying two point shots, solid defensive rebounding, force turnovers, etc.

What to watch out for

Does Chet Holmgren break out of his three point slump?

Holmgren was fantastic against Georgia State and was still pretty decent against Memphis, despite the foul trouble. He had nine points, nine rebounds, and four blocks and went 4-for-4 from inside the arc. Trouble is, he is just 0-for-5 from three-point range. We’ve seen Holmgren hit those trailing threes with relative ease this season, so those shots will start falling (it is not as if they are bad shots). Obviously, to make the deep run in the tournament, all the guys need to be playing their best. This is the one aspect of Chet’s game that we haven’t seen in the tournament so far. All in Gonzaga-land know it is there, so let’s hope it busts out tonight.

Wherefore art thou Julian Strawther?

Speaking of things we’d like to see, we are poised for a “breakout” game from the Gonzaga sophomore winger. Strawther has been making up for his lack of offense by aggressive defending and hitting the glass, but he has scored a total of 9 points in two games off of 4-for-16 shooting, including going 0-for-9 from three-point range. The Zags have plenty of dudes, but having Strawther’s microwave going helps relieve the pressure to score on some of the other guys, such as Andrew Nembhard and Drew Timme. Strawther doesn’t need to drop 16 points per game, but it’d be nice to see him hit double-digits again.

Foul trouble.

Arkansas draws a lot of fouls, and, honestly, their best bet to win this game is to put the Gonzaga bigs in foul trouble. Once you move past starting sophomore center Jaylin Williams, there is not a lot of height on this roster. It will be interesting to see how the Razorbacks attack Gonzaga’s front court. If Drew Timme is sidelined with fouls for the majority of a half, for example, who on Gonzaga is going to step up? How is Mark Few going to manage the rotation? Few very rarely plays his guys with two-fouls in the first half, and there is a good chance that will happen.


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