UNC Greensboro vs Gonzaga Preview and Prediction
UNC Greensboro vs Gonzaga Preview
A clash of two programs who are very unfamiliar with each other. The Gonzaga Bulldogs won’t have to travel very far to play in their 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Spartans of UNC Greenbsoro, on the other hand, will have to make a cross-country trek and play in front of a very pro-Gonzaga crowd if they hope to advance in their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001.
UNC Greensboro finished the season with a program best 27-7 record and won the regular and conference tournament titles of the Southern Conference. It also has some good experience playing against 2018 tournament teams, only losing to Virginia by 12 points in Charlottesville, before knocking off NC State on the road in Raleigh by a score of 81-76.
The Spartans play one of the slowest tempos in the country (318 out of 351), and will look to grind out a defensive battle against the Zags. Ken Pomeroy ranks UNCG as the 30th most efficient defense, and the Spartans excel at forcing turnovers and crashing the boards.
Gonzaga will have to control the rebounding game to prevent the Spartans from getting any extra opportunities, and look to implement the uptempo style it played with great success at the start of the season. The Zags have a decided advantage in the frontcourt, so look for big games from Johnathan Williams, Killian Tillie, and Rui Hachimura.
This pace allows the Spartans to set up their defense on every possession and the Spartans are about as good defensively as anyone in the NCAA Tournament. UNCG enters the postseason ranking sixth nationally in scoring defense (62.4 PPG).
Because UNCG’s offense revolves around its backcourt, Gonzaga will need Silas Melson to set the tone for the entire defensive unit. Look for Melson to be matched up on UNCG junior guard Francis Alonso who set the UNCG school record for three-pointers made in a season this year with 110 (KenPom has him at 103 since seven of the threes came against non-D1 competition).
Get to know some key Spartans
We already talked a bit about Francis Alonso who averages nearly 16 points per game. He leads the backcourt and was named the Southern Conference Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. It was his three-pointer with 20 seconds left that helped the Spartans edge Wofford, 56-55, in the semifinals.
Marvin Smith averages 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, numbers that won’t jump off the page, but he is the Spartans best on-ball defender and will need his A-game if UNCG wants to sniff an upset. Smith was a second-team All-SoCon selection.
The frontcourt is led by one of the best rim protectors in mid-major basketball, in sophomore 6-10 center James Dickey III (8.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 71 blocks). Dickey was the SoCon’s Defensive Player of the Year, and leads the league with 71 blocks this season.
Gonzaga’s balanced attack
The Bulldogs may not have as much talent as they had in prior years, but this team plays together and will be a tough out in the Tournament.
Gonzaga has five players who average in double-figures:
Jonathan Williams: 13.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.6 APG
Killian Tillie: 13.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.7 APG
Josh Perkins: 12.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.4 APG
Zach Norvell Jr.: 12.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.4 APG
Rui Hachimura: 11.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.7 APG
As you can see from their numbers, all five of these Gonzaga players can do it all and no one will put themselves above the team. This type of style is conducive to Tournament success.
LINE: -12.5 Gonzaga
Gonzaga is the heavy favorite and rightfully so. Despite the elite defense UNCG plays, they do not have the skill and bodies necessary to stop the Bulldogs balanced attack. If the Spartans focus on shutting down Jonathan Williams there are four other Bulldogs with the talent necessary to lead the way for their team.
Gonzaga 72 UNCG 60