by Robby McCombs
BYU will play the Gonzaga Bulldogs Thursday night in Spokane. Here is a scouting report of the Bulldogs to get you ready before the 7:00 MST tip.
Record: 13-3; 5-0 in WCC
USA Today Ranking: 21
AP Ranking: 25
KenPom Ranking (out of 351 Division 1 Teams): 38
RPI rank: 43
Points allowed: 66.9
Three things to Know:
1) Gonzaga has one of the best frontcourts in the nation. Even without Karnowski, who is out for the season after undergoing back surgery, Gonzaga poses one of the best frontcourt duos in the entire country. Senior Kyle Wiltjer is leading the WCC in scoring at 21.5 points per game. He’s taken on more of a scoring load from last season, and is still shooting at an efficient rate. The other big, Domantas Sabonis, is a likely first round NBA draft pick after this season. Sabonis is averaging 19 points and 11 boards on the season while being one of the nation’s most efficient shooters (shooting 66%).
Gonzaga does not have much frontcourt depth after Sabonis and Wiltjer, however. Both guys consistently play 35+ minutes a night, so look for BYU to go into Kyle Davis and other frontcourt plays more than usual in an effort to get Gonzaga’s bigs into foul trouble.
2) Gonzaga relies heavily on its starters. Going along with the point made in the previous paragraph, Gonzaga does not go very deep into its bench. Out of 351 teams, Gonzaga ranks 333 in bench minutes. The Bulldogs have a seven-man rotation that they have settled into. To avoid foul trouble, Gonzaga plays conservatively on the defensive end; they are 319 in turnover percentage and 252 in block percentage.
3) Gonzaga’s guards have been inconsistent, but have stepped up during conference play. BYU will have the edge in the backcourt. Gonzaga lost three senior starters from last year’s backcourt. While there have been growing pains with Gonzaga’s guards, they seem to be coming into their own during conference season. Freshman Point Guard Josh Perkins is the backcourt leader. He’s upped his scoring to close to 15 points per game during conference play while decreasing his turnovers.
How BYU Wins:
BYU must limit Gonzaga’s guards. Sure, BYU would be great shape if they held Sabonis and Wiltjer in check and/or put them in foul trouble, but that has rarely happened to Gonzaga this season. What really killed BYU against teams with good bigs – Utah and Colorado – was the three-point shooting by the guards. If BYU can limit kick-out threes from the bigs to the guards, BYU will put itself in a good position to pull the upset.