What UVA Basketball fans need to know about #1 Gonzaga

tony bennett

Tony Bennett talks with his team. Photo by Andrew Shurtleff/courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Everything you know about Gonzaga is based on what you thought you saw in the first half of the 99-88 win over then-#3 Iowa last weekend.

Breathe. Because that 10-of-16 effort from behind the arc isn’t what Gonzaga is.

The 3-of-10 in the second half is more like it for these Bulldogs, who are shooting 34.2 percent from three-point range on the season.

Gonzaga (6-0) gets 28.8 percent of its points in transition, playing at the sixth-fastest tempo in D1, per KenPom.com.

The ‘Zags are also adept at scoring in the post and on offensive rebounds – the key guy to both being rugged 6’10” sophomore Drew Timme (20.3 ppg, 7.5 rebs/g, 60.5% FG).

Timme is 15-of-27 (55.6%) in post-ups and 5-of-8 (62.5%) on stickbacks, per Synergy Sports, both team-bests.

Where Timme is deadly, though, is as the screener on pick-and-rolls – scoring on 15 of his 19 shots in those situations, per Synergy.

The pressure will be on UVA center Jay Huff and the help on the back end. The Pack Line requires Huff to double the ballhandler, then race back into the lane to catch the screener – meaning he needs help from the back side to slow down the screener’s roll.

What that does, then, is expose, for a split-second, at least, the wings, for spot-ups.

This is where you get to meet 6’7” senior Corey Kispert (20.8 ppg, 61.6% FG, 45.9% 3FG), who can knock down the open look from three, and is also solid on dribble-drives – shooting 86.7 percent at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com, which has him a bit of a volume shooter at the rim, reporting that 41.1 percent of his shot attempts are layups or dunks.

The third guy in Mark Few’s Big Three is 6’4” freshman point guard Jalen Suggs (16.3 ppg, 56.9% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 5.8 assists/g).

Suggs also is a frequent visitor to the paint – 55.4 percent of his shot attempts are at the rim, and he converts 66.7 percent of those layups and dunks.

Important to note that 40.8 percent of the rim runs come in transition, and that the efficiency in the paint in the half-court (63.9 percent) isn’t what it is on fast breaks (75.9 percent).

UVA opponents who like to run often fail to get the ‘Hoos, again the most deliberate team in D1, per KenPom, to speed up.

Tony Bennett teams don’t always beat tempo teams, to be sure, but when they lose, it’s because the tempo team beats the Bennett team at Bennett’s pace.

Now you can see why Bennett and Few each wanted to schedule this one.

It’s a test for both – for UVA, to maintain its discipline against a team that profiles favorably to Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, all possible NCAA Tournament opponents, plus the likes of NC State and Syracuse from the ACC; for Gonzaga, well, the ‘Hoos will resemble possible March matchups like Villanova, Wisconsin, UCLA, Ohio State.

Should be fun – actually, for UVA Basketball fans, you hope it’s excruciatingly so, for the ‘Zags, anyway.

The skinny

  • ESPN BPI: UVA +0.5, 51.9% win probability
  • BartTorvik: Gonzaga +2.4, 60% win probability
  • KenPom: Gonzaga +5, 69% win probability

Story by Chris Graham


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