Rivalry games are the best, and even though this series has been one sided for some time, the Zags will need to be at their best as they embark on their most difficult three-game stretch of the season.
Meet the opponent
Washington Huskies, 7-1, KenPom #43
Like Gonzaga, the Huskies have only played two games against teams ranked inside the top 100 on KenPom, mounting a late 14-1 run against Baylor to win 67-64 on a neutral floor in Alaska, and then losing to Tennessee 75-62 in another neutral floor contest in Toronto.
Also like Gonzaga, Mike Hopkins runs a pretty tight 8-man rotation with a lot of new faces who are still learning to play together. Junior wing Nahziah Carter is the only rotation player who played a significant role for the Huskies last year en route to their regular season Pac-12 title, though senior forward Sam Timmins is still around. UW has a strong defense (#17 in KenPom), but struggles to score consistently or threaten teams from the arc.
What to watch out for
Duh. UW is going to zone Gonzaga all day long and try to take away the interior offense. The Zags will need to be patient, but decisive, in the halfcourt if they want to dissect Mike Hopkins’ defense. Gonzaga’s shooters need to have a strong day from the arc to extend the UW zone and give the bigs some room inside. The GU backcourt is much more talented than UW’s, and they’ll their opportunities to force turnovers and create transition opportunities which will alleviate the burden on the halfcourt execution.
The Huskies feature a pair of highly touted freshmen forwards that they depend on heavily to produce. Isaiah Stewart leads the team in scoring and rebounding at 16.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg, and Jaden McDaniels is second in scoring and third in rebounding at 15 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and 2.3 apg. Nahziah Carter chips in as well with a double-digit scoring rate, but Stewart and McDaniels are the headliners for this squad, and rightfully so. While they’re young, both are extremely talented and will be first round picks in the NBA draft after this season. Neither one of them are real threats from the three-point line, but their length and athleticism will make them challenging matchups for Gonzaga’s defense. It’s a real shame Anton Watson isn’t healthy at the moment, as the Zags would love to him for this one and it would have been a lot of fun to see Watson get some run against McDaniels.
UW’s defense will look to harass and speed up the Gonzaga big men when the ball gets thrown inside, and they will find it difficult to get off clean and easy looks around the rim. Washington’s defense is currently ranked 14th in the nation at block percentage and will contest anything soft by Petrusev or Timme. Gonzaga’s bigs have to redeem themselves from the domination they received at the hands of Michigan and win the trench wars in the paint, or it could be another long day for them.
- Time: 4:00 pm PT
- TV: ESPN2
- Radio: Gonzaga IMG Network
- Online: WatchESPN.com