NCAA Basketball Showdown: Gonzaga Bulldogs at Arizona Wildcats
Two power programs from the West Coast will square off Saturday night in Tucson, Ariz., as No. 15 Arizona (10-1) hosts No. 6 Gonzaga (10-1). Gonzaga has responded after a loss to Michigan by winning two in a row, including a victory on Sunday at rival Washington. Meanwhile, Arizona’s perfect season was snapped at Baylor last Saturday, but the Wildcats got back in the win column earlier this week against Omaha.
Here is a preview for Saturday night’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
Gonzaga is a perennial tournament team which, under head coach Mark Few, is once again one of the top teams in the nation. The Bulldogs are averaging 85.9 points per game on 49.9 percent shooting. They’re a solid rebounding team, averaging 41.8 boards per game as well.
Defensively, Gonzaga allows 65 points per game, along with recording 7.5 steals and 3.7 blocks on average.
Sean Miller’s Arizona squad comes in as the Pac-12 favorite, with eyes on the NCAA Tournament come springtime. The Wildcats are averaging 85.5 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field.
While they only pull down 36.9 boards on average, the Wildcats also dish out 17.6 assists per game. So far, Arizona has been a very good defensive team, allowing just 63.2 points per game and averaging 7.8 steals and four blocks a night.
Who To Watch
After losing four starters from last season, Gonzaga is getting much of its production from its dynamic frontcourt. Filip Petrusev, a 6-11 sophomore, leads the team in both scoring with 15.8 points and rebounding with 8.5 boards. Next to him is senior Killian Tillie, who, after missing much of last season, is back and averaging 13.7 points and shooting 40.7 percent from three.
Those two, along with 6-10 freshman Drew Timme, give Gonzaga one of the longest and best frontcourts in the nation, posing a challenge to any team lacking elite size.
While Gonzaga has a solid amount of experience, Arizona is led by a pair of NBA-level freshmen. Point guard Nico Mannion is averaging 14.9 points and 6.2 assists, including two double-doubles in 11 games. There’s also Zeke Nnaji, a 6-11 post player who’s averaging a team-high 15.9 points and 6.7 rebounds.
The Wildcats also have senior center Chase Jeter, the only returning starter from last year’s Arizona team that fell 91-74 against Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational. Overall, this is one of the best offensive teams Miller has ever had at Arizona.
Odds And Pick
Arizona is a slight favorite at home, listed at -2 with -135 odds on the moneyline. Meanwhile, Gonzaga’s moneyline is +115.
The Bulldogs have won the last two meetings with the Wildcats, and I’m picking them to make it three straight. I think Gonzaga has a huge advantage in the rebounding department, thanks to its size down low. The Bulldogs also have good three-point shooters in Tillie and junior forward Corey Kispert, who can slash to the basket as well.
Arizona is a good team, but Gonzaga has the all-around skill to win this one on the road. Give me Gonzaga +2.