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An unusually busy Friday night in the college basketball world provides a good alternative to the professional leagues and a light college football slate. We’re used to seeing big Saturday cards, but not necessarily busy Fridays. There aren’t a lot of premier games on November 15, but there are more than a few interesting non-conference matchups.
The one we’ll profile here is Gonzaga vs. Texas A&M. We won’t have a Myles Powell situation in this game, as Powell went from “prolonged absence” with a sprained ankle to game-time decision by the afternoon. Then he put on a show against Michigan State.
The road ‘Dogs are road favorites of a touchdown and a PAT in this one with a total of 143.5.
We don’t have that type of thing here in this one. We just have the Bulldogs taking a trek down to College Station in search of a resume-building road victory. Gonzaga certainly appears to be catching the Aggies at the right time. Texas A&M made a strong hire pulling Buzz Williams out of Virginia Tech, but it is going to take time to transition. Williams mirrored Virginia’s pack-line defense while he was in Blacksburg. He had a lot of success with it and seems poised to bring those elements to Texas A&M.
So far, the results haven’t been overly impressive. In games against bottom-75 teams Northwestern State and Louisiana Monroe, the Aggies have wins by 14 and 6 points. They’ve held the opposition to .902 and .861 points per possession, which is good, but the offense really struggled badly in the ULM win. Texas A&M managed just 63 points and just .952 points per possession while shooting 18-of-42 from two-point range.
Jay Jay Chandler, Andre Gordon, and Quenton Jackson accounted for 43 of the 63 points scored by the Aggies. They were 9-for-19 inside the arc, with the rest of the team just 9-for-23. That trio also hit all of the team’s three-pointers.
The Aggies offense is a work in progress and so is the defense. Data points against bad teams aren’t enough to really indicate what is going on with the defense. So far, Texas A&M has played solid defense without fouling and has forced a lot of turnovers. On the other hand, Northwestern State had 19(!!) offensive rebounds in the opener and ULM pulled down 11 more.
Mark Few’s Gonzaga team does just about everything well. Walkover wins against Alabama State, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, and North Dakota all lead into this game on the road for Few’s bunch. Not surprisingly, this is the first road game of the season. Future trips will included Southern Miss on a neutral, Washington, and Arizona in the non-conference. The Bulldogs also host North Carolina down the line.
This is a much different Gonzaga team, but the Bulldogs reload. They don’t rebuild. Few has lost a ton of talent in recent years, including Rui Hachimara, Killian Tillie, Zach Collins, and Josh Perkins. The scary thing is that Drew Timme, Anton Watson, and Pavel Zakharov all rank in the top six of Few’s freshman recruits over his tenure at Gonzaga. Sophomore Filip Petrusev was a highly-rated recruit as well. Zakharov hasn’t played much to this point and the freshmen have taken something of a back seat to junior Corey Kispert and senior Ryan Woolridge, but the overall theme here is that Gonzaga is really good once again. Experience could be something of a factor early on in some of these litmus test games, but talent is not an issue. It never is for Few.
This is an interesting matchup. It will be the first road trip of the season and all five data points across the board have come against really bad teams. North Dakota is the best opponent for either team and the Fighting Hawks rank 231st for Bart Torvik. The key difference is that Gonzaga has crushed its three inferior foes and Texas A&M has had problems with its foes.
My favorite play in this game is Gonzaga -7. Texas A&M can’t get into an arms race with Gonzaga and Buzz Williams knows that. Gonzaga’s stunning offensive efficiency has led to PPP marks of 1.372, 1.456, and 1.294 through three games, but this is a much longer and more athletic defense. A&M has played to the opponent’s tempo twice and Gonzaga is likely to want to run a little bit and get some transition buckets before A&M can set up. If A&M cedes the pace again, they cannot keep up offensively.
I’m also slightly interested in the under 143.5. A&M struggled a bit offensively last season and now the Aggies are changing schemes to adhere to what Williams wants. Texas A&M doesn’t have a lot of shooters and you have to make shots to score against Gonzaga.
Pick: Gonzaga -7
Lean: Under 143.5
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