NCAA Thursday Night Basketball: Gonzaga/St. Mary's Preview

by Alec McMordie

The number one team in the nation is showcased on ESPN in a battle of West Coast Conference rivals at 9 PM ET.

Gonzaga improved their record to 20-0 this season on Saturday with their 100-61 victory at San Francisco as an 18.5-point favorite. Freshman Jalen Suggs led the way with 28 points in only 22 minutes of play. He is scoring 14.2 points-per-game while adding 5.4 rebounds-per-game and 4.8 assists-per-game.

Sophomore Drew Timme leads the team with 19.4 points-per-game and 7.3 rebounds-per-game marks. Senior Corey Crispest scores another 19.2 points-per-game. All three players are National Player of the Year candidates.

The number one team in the AP poll lead the nation with a 93.0 points-per-game scoring average. The Bulldogs are second nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They make 64.5% of their shots inside the arc, second nationally, and they are second nationally in effective field goal percentage. Gonzaga ranks sixth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They are 36th with a steal rate of 11.2%, and they limit their opponents to rebounding 23.4% of their missed shots, 26th nationally.

Mark Few’s team is 11-0 in the West Coast Conference. Their closest game was last week when they defeated BYU on the road, 82-71. The Bulldogs have racked up impressive non-conference victories against Iowa, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kansas, who are all are ranked 23rd or higher in the kenpom ratings.

Saint Mary’s had not played in three weeks before last Saturday. The Gaels rallied from a 14 point deficit with 7:35 left in the game to even the score with seven seconds remaining but ultimately lost at Pepperdine, 60-58, as a 1-point underdog. Randy Bennett’s team was rusty from not having played since January 23rd as they shot 37.5% from the field. Six games have been postponed on their schedule this season.

Four players score in double-digit,s with Tommy Kuhse leading the team with a 14.1 points-per-game scoring average. This group is not as proficient a scoring team as in recent seasons for the Gaels. Saint Mary’s ranks 137 in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. Their 28.9% shooting percentage from 3-point range in conference play is last in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels’ are 34th in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They hold their opponents to rebounding 21.1% of their missed shots, seventh-best nationally.

Saint Mary’s is 11-6 with their highest-profile victory against Colorado State, ranked 68th at kenpom. The Gaels are 2-4 in conference play with losses against Santa Clara, BYU, the Wave on Saturday, and these Bulldogs earlier in the season. They also lost to Memphis and San Diego State in non-conference play.

Gonzaga won the first meeting between these two teams on January 16th at McKeon Pavilion, 73-59, as a 16.5-point favorite. Bennett has a career record of 11-41 in his tenure at Saint Mary’s against the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga returns home for the first time after playing their last five games on the road. With easing health restrictions in the state, the parents of players will be in attendance at McCarthey Athletic Center for the first time this season.

lists Gonzaga as a 20.5-point favorite with the total set at 141.5.

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

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