Iowa: Everything this season is funneling through Garza for Iowa, and with great reason: He’s the second-leading scorer in all of college hoops this season with hilarious efficiency to boot. Against the Zags and their fierce frontcourt, it’ll be tough for him to feast inside the way he’s done thus far. But he’s expanded his game beyond the 3-point line this season, making him a threat to score from anywhere at anytime. Garza’s
Date: Saturday, Dec. 19
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
Venue: Sanford Pentagon
Last meeting: Gonzaga won in second round of 2015 NCAA tournament in Seattle, 86-67
Zags data: This is Gonzaga’s first game since Dec. 2. It had five games canceled or postponed because of COVID-19 issues in the program.Gonzaga has assembled a body of work, however. It opened the season with wins over then-No. 6 Kansas, Auburn, and then-No. 11 West Virginia at neutral sites, and averaged 93 points and a winning margin of 13.3 points per game in doing so.
Coming off of a long layoff to deal with the Hawkeyes won’t be easy but if any team is up to the challenge it is Gonzaga. Mark Few’s team has looked downright dominant early in the season, cruising past Kansas and Auburn before outlasting West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic. A combination of talented returning stars like Corey Kispert and Drew Timme along with new blood like freshman Jalen Suggs and Florida transfer Andrew Nembhard have allowed the Bulldogs to assemble the deepest rotation in college basketball.
Iowa has been playing throughout the season without a pause and the Hawkeyes have rolled to a perfect 6-0 start behind the stellar play of big man Luka Garza. The senior center, who is the clear front-runner for the National Player of the Year Awards, has put on a show by averaging 29.2 points per game and nine rebounds a night for Iowa.
Slowing down Garza will be imperative for the Bulldogs if they hope to make a statement in South Dakota. The big worry for Gonzaga fans is that the layoff will make the task even more difficult without recent game reps to keep everyone fresh.
I have little doubt that Iowa can put up a big number on offense, but consider me skeptical that its defense can give it a chance to stay in the mix down to the wire. The Hawkeyes have the second-worst defense in adjusted efficiency among all Big Ten teams this season according to KenPom.com metrics, and against Gonzaga’s stacked roster that has managed to rank top-20 nationally this season in points per possession