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Purdue Basketball: Gonzaga Preview

What does Gonzaga look like post Drew Timme? Hint...they’re still really good.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga Kraziness in the Kennel James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Basic Information

Location: Spokane, Washington

Type of School: Private University

Mascot: Spike the Bulldog

Head Coach - Mark Few

Seasons at Gonzaga: 25

Career Record: 691-135

Regular Season Conference Championships: 22

Conference Tournament Championships: 19

NCAA Appearances: 23

Final 4 Appearances: 2

Quick Note on Gonzaga

The ‘Zags have only played two games this season, one of those games was against an NAIA opponent, the other was against Yale. The stats should give you and idea of how they want to play, but don’t mean much after that.

For the raw stats, I excluded the NAIA game, and gave you their stats against Yale only. I can’t do that with Kenpom.

Kenpom Style of Play

() = National Ranking per Kenpom


Adj. Efficiency: 119.5 (3)

Avg. Poss. Length: 15.6 (56)


Adj. Efficiency: 94 (31

Avg. Poss. Length: 17.3 (205)


Adj. Tempo: 72.2 (81)

Kenpom 4 Factors

() = National Ranking per Kenpom


Effective FG%: 55.5 (47)

Turnover %: 14.3 (59)

Off. Reb. %: 40 (19)

FTA/FGA: 32.8 (185)


Effective FG%: 48.3 (148)

Turnover %: 15.8 (268)

Off. Reb. %: 20 (15)

FTA/FGA: 23.7 (42)


Gonzaga Starters

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals
Point Guard 0 Ryan Nembhard Jr. 6'0" 175 Creighton 40 16 7 4 0 1
Shooting Guard 11 Nolan Hickman Jr. 6'2" 185 39 15 3 2 0 1
Forward 4 Dusty Stromer Fr. 6'6" 195 28 8 1 3 0 1
Forward 22 Anton Watson Sr. 6'8" 230 33 11 2 12 0 2
Center 24 Graham Ike Sr. 6'9" 240 Wyoming 20 11 0 3 0 3

Gonzaga Bench

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals
Center/Forward 34 Braden Huff Fr. 6'10" 235 20 19 0 9 0 0
Center/Forward 33 Ben Gregg Jr. 6'10" 230 16 6 0 5 0 1

Playing Style


The Zags look a little bit like I anticipate Purdue looking next season. Last season, center Drew Timme was the focal point of the offense. In fact, Drew Timme was the focal point of Gonzaga’s attack for the last three seasons. They brought in Wyoming transfer big Graham Ike to try and ease the transition, but Timme, much like Zach Edey, is 1/1 in terms of his skill set.

Instead of pounding the ball inside to Timme, the strength of the Zags now shifts to their backcourt. Creighton transfer Ryan Nembhard takes over from last season’s starting point guard Nolan Hickman, with Hickman sliding over to shooting guard to replace Rasir Bolton. Essentially, they run two experienced, high-level point guards.

Small forward is an issue for the Bulldogs. They brought in Eastern Washington star shooter Steele Venters to play on the wing, but he blew a knee in practice and is out for the season. That leaves true freshman Dusty Stromer as their only real wing option. Purdue started 2 freshmen in the backcourt last season; that’s not a big deal, but losing one of the best shooters in college basketball and replacing him with a true freshman is never a good thing.

The frontcourt is weird.

Anton Watson starts at power forward, but the 6’8”, 230-pound senior is also their best remaining wing. The problem for Mark Few is a lack of shooting, and Stromer fills that role better than Watson, who shot a career-high 33% from deep last season. In theory, he plays small forward in Gonzaga’s best “on paper” lineup, but his lack of shooting, paired with the backcourt’s lack of shooting, keeps him at power forward.

That leaves 3 big men for the post. Huff, a redshirt freshman, is the Zags’ current leading scorer (remember, that doesn’t mean much). He’s a pick and pop, face-up big, who is skilled but not a traditional 5. That said, through the first two games, he’s received 49% of the minutes at center. I expect to see Gonzaga make Edey guard Huff on the perimeter all game. If Zach hangs back, Huff will light it up from deep. This is a huge defensive task for the big man.

I anticipate Ben Gregg to be their backup center against Purdue. Like Huff, he’s a pick and pop center capable of pulling Edey away from the basket. Unlike Huff, I don’t think he can drive Edey, but again, if Zach sinks back in his drop defense, Gregg will light it up from deep on throwback off the pick and pop.

Their other potential center, Graham Ike, is the most “traditional” big on their team, in terms of banging in the post and doing the dirty work, but he’s only 6’9” (a wild thing to type). He used a relentless power game to dominate at Wyoming. I don’t anticipate Gonzaga running many plays for him, but Kaufman-Renn and Gillis will have their hands full with him on the glass. When he does get the ball in his hands, look for him to try and drive Kaufman-Renn on the perimeter or shoot over Gillis in the post.

In Summary

The ‘Zags are going to play a wide-open, 4-around-1, pick and roll/pick and pop-centric offense in the half court. They want Nembhard or Hickman to use the high screen, get into the lane, and run their offense from there.

Look for an exhausting number of pick and pops because they need a clean runway for their small guards to score in the post. If they can’t pull Zach away from the basket, he might end up with a triple-double, including blocks. As exciting as that would be for Purdue fans, Huff and Gregg will pull him away from the basket. I expect Zach to make them prove they can hit the deep 3 with a closing giant in their face, but he has to respect them from the perimeter.

They love to pull the opposing big away from the basket with their pick-and-pop 3’s and then let Watson cut in from the baseline to give the driving guard an option at the rim or the option to kick out to the big spotted up behind the 3-point line. Kaufmann-Renn and Gillis can’t get caught watching the ball or Watson will throw an oop down on their head.

Last but not least, Stromer is going to stand in the corner. When the ball hits his hands, it’s either heading towards the basket or it’s moving. His job is to hit spot-up 3’s and keep the defense from helping off on their driving guards. If Purdue overhelps, and they tend to overhelp, Stromer is going to have a bunch of make/miss open 3’s off kickouts. It would behoove Purdue to keep the Gonzaga guards from turning the corner and getting into the lane, but the Gonzaga guards are extremely good at turning the corner and getting into the lane. That makes for fun basketball.

Gonzaga on Defense, The ‘Zags run a standard half court, man-to-man defense, but they have a 3⁄4 court press in their back pocket, and I anticipate seeing it a good bit. Note to Purdue guards, if it seems easy to dribble down the outside of the court, it’s because Gonzaga is trying to trap you on either side for the mid-court corner (front court/back court). The ball needs to get to the middle of the court to break the pressure, and Purdue needs to punish them by attacking when they break it out, otherwise, expect to see it all game.

Matchup to Watch

Zach Edey vs. Braden Huff

NBA executives will be tuned into this one to see how Zach handles a skilled big like Huff on defense. He’s going to try and pull Edey out of his preferred “drop” defense and make him come out and defend the pick and pop at the top of the key. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Gonzaga run iso for Huff off the pick and pop if they get the Edey matchup on the perimeter. Huff can handle the ball a little and could try and drive Edey and pick up fouls. This will be the biggest test, by far, for the big man, and stylistically, could be one of the more interesting matchups of the season. I think it will showcase Zach’s offseason conditioning and agility work.

At the same time, Huff has to guard Edey on the other end of the court, and Gonzaga only wants to play 7 guys. They’re going to try and guard the largest Canadian in captivity with a true freshman, and Purdue is going to check on him every chance they get early in the game. Purdue’s best answer to the pick and pop could be getting the poppers in foul trouble on the defensive end.

Gonzaga Issue to Watch, Backcourt Foul Trouble

With the season-ending injury to Venters, Gonzaga only wants to go 7 deep. Given the choice, Few won’t take Nembhard or Hickman out of the game. They’re both exceptional players, and he has no one on the bench to replace them. If Purdue can pressure either one into picking up early fouls, Few has limited options, and no options that he likes.



Purdue - 79

Gonzaga - 76

Confidence: 58%


Purdue - 89

Gonzaga - 78

This is a game where Purdue’s depth and quicker pace on offense pays huge dividends in the second half if Coach Painter doesn’t blink and revert back to the “all Edey, all the time” offense of last season.

I think Coach holds course. Purdue plays a hard-fought, up-and-down game in the 1st half and pulls away in the second half after fatigue and foul trouble mount against the short-handed ‘Zags.

B.U.D.S. Preview

If you want to hear Garret and I spend 45 minutes talking about this game. I got you covered.