In the semifinals of the AdvoCare Invitational, the Bulldogs will face off against the University of Florida after the Gators beat Seton Hall 81-76 Thursday night.
This will be the biggest test of the season thus far for Gonzaga as Florida received a few votes in the most recent top 25 poll. Ken Pomeroy, who runs the popular college basketball analytics website kenpom.com, has Florida at No. 12 in his rankings, using different statistical methodology in his decisions. For comparison, GU is No. 22.
One of the leading reasons the Gators are ranked so high is because of their tough defense. Pomeroy takes into account the strength of the opponent in grading offense and defense and the Gators are ranked seventh in defense in the country. They are by no means the tallest team in the country, but they can defend down low because of their length and athletic ability.
Backup center Kevarrius Hayes is blocking almost three shots per game, second-best in the SEC. As a team, they blocked seven shots of Seton Hall and held the Pirates to 33 percent from the field in the second half.
They also are quick at the guard positions, causing problems and creating steals.
For the Zags, they will need solid guard play and work the ball inside and out to manufacture more space down low.
But Florida is no slouch on offense. Former College of Charleston guard Canyon Berry transferred to the team this offseason as a graduate transfer. He provides points off the bench and Thursday night, he put up 20 points. He averaged almost 20 points for Charleston last season and he leads the Gators with 14.6 points per game this season.
Fellow guard KeVaughn Allen is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14 points. He is shooting over 40 percent on the season and hasn’t missed a free throw shot.
For the Gators, another area of improvement has been their shooting from the charity stripe. The Gators only shot .647 from their last season and this year they have bumped that number up to .746.
The only weakness (and it is a minor one) is on offense where they are scoring about 78 points per game on the year on 43 percent shooting. Comparatively, GU is hovering around 88 per game on 48 percent shooting.
Overall, this should be a great game to watch as both teams are putting their strengths to the test in an early-season battle. The keys to the game for both teams will be free-throw shooting (Zags are making 78 percent of their free throws) and managing fouls.
Three Gators fouled out Thursday night (two starters Devin Robinson and Kasey Hill) and as a team, they had 25 personal fouls. If Gonzaga can take advantage of fouls (it only committed 15), it could put up a lot of easy points from the line.
The Zags need freshman Zach Collins to stay out of foul trouble. In two of the four games he has committed nine personal fouls and fouled out of one contest.
The game starts at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.