NCAA Thursday Night Basketball: Gonzaga/Pepperdine Preview

by Big Al Staff

The number one ranked team in the nation plays on ESPN at 9 PM ET.

Gonzaga has rattled off twelve straight victories to start the season against a rigorous non-conference schedule that has included powerhouses Kansas, West Virginia, Virginia, and Iowa. The Bulldogs have the country's top adjusted offensive efficiency number according to metrics at kenpom. They lead the nation with an effective field goal percentage of 60.8%. Gonzaga scores 96.1 points-per-game with a 55.6% field goal percentage. The Zags also rank 21st in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. Opponents are shooting 42.7% against them and average 73.4 points-per-game.

Gonzaga last played on Saturday when they defeated Portland by a 116-88 score at Portland as a 32.5-point favorite. The Bulldogs made 62.9% of their shots against the Pilots. That victory raised Gonzaga’s record in West Coast Conference play to 3-0.

Head coach Mark Few returned three players from his seven-man rotation that finished 31-2 last season and looked poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament as a number one seed. Senior Corey Kispert leads the team this year with a 21.1 points-per-game after contributing 13.9 points-per-game last season. Sophomore Drew Timme is adding 18.5 points-per-game after averaging 9.5 points-per-game last year. Junior forward Joel Ayayi is averaging 11.8 points-per-game and adds 8.1 rebounds-per-game as the leading rebounder on the team. Jalen Suggs is a five-star freshman who is scoring 13.8 points-per-game. This group may be Few’s most talented roster in his 22 seasons as the Gonzaga head coach.

Pepperdine returns to the court after their basketball program went on pause due to COVID issues. The Waves are 4-5 this season after suffering two straight upset losses. They last played on December 23rd when they lost at Cal-State Bakersfield, 79-51, as a 6.5-point favorite.

Head coach Lorenzo Ramor returned four starters from the team last year that finished 16-16 and 8-8 in the West Coast Conference. They have a dangerous leader at point guard in senior Colbey Ross, who scores 19 points-per-game and adds 7.2 assists-per-game. Junior forward Kessler Edwards contributes 17.2 points-per-game.

Ross has the talent to keep the Waves in this game. He scored 33 points earlier this season in a triple-overtime loss against UCLA. He scored 43 points in an overtime loss to Saint Mary’s last season.

Pepperdine is scoring 77.9 points per game on 47.1% shooting from the field. They rank 104th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. The Waves' opponents are shooting 42.5% against them and scoring 73. 6 points-per-game. They rank 190th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

The Waves have wins against UC-Irvine and California, along with St. Katherine and Concordia. In addition to their setbacks to UCLA and Cal-State Bakersfield, Pepperdine's losses were against San Diego State, Cal-State Northridge, and UC-Santa Barbara. This contest is Pepperdine's first game against a West Coast Conference opponent this season.

BookMaker lists Gonzaga as a 25.5-point favorite with the total set at 166.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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