The biggest and most consequential game of the young college hoops season will take place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Saturday as No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 3 Iowa meet in a matinee matchup with much on the line. Neither team has yet to lose thus far this season, and adding to intrigue, Iowa rates first in adjusted offensive efficiency this season just narrowly ahead of Gonzaga. So, please, prepare yourself accordingly for all the offense you can handle.
Leading the charge for Iowa is all-everything superstar Luka Garza, the preseason player of the year who thus far looks the part. He’s averaging 29.2 points per game — tops among all players from the major seven conferences — and is coming off two heaters against Northern Illinois and Iowa State in which he amassed 57 points on 24 shots and nailed 8 of 10 3-pointers in that stretch.
For Gonzaga, the star power has been shared amongst the quartet of Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Jalen Suggs. But it’s Timme and Kispert who are pacing the Zags through three games of action, averaging 23.3 points and 22.3 points per game, respectively. Both could wind up drawing the unenviable assignment of trying to slow Garza and to match him in production, which at this point in the season seems like a futile endeavor.
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Gonzaga: How rusty — or ready — this Gonzaga team will look Saturday remains the biggest question. The Zags have been on pause because of COVID-19 positive tests for two weeks, and they last played a game on Dec. 2. When we saw them to open the season they looked undeniably worthy of the No. 1 ranking in the sport — with wins over Kansas, Auburn and West Virginia on neutral courts to open the season — but Iowa presents the biggest test to date coming off an extended layover.
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 sidekick, Joe Wieskamp, should play a big factor in this one as well. He’s coming off a season-high scoring output of 20 points against Northern Illinois and he continues to play a big role in big games as the team’s primary non-Garza shot-taker.
- When: Saturday, Dec. 19, Noon ET
- Where: Sanford Pentagon — Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Gonzaga vs. Iowa prediction
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 — despite two of its games being against ranked opponents — I expect the Bulldogs to have a big scoring day that Iowa can’t keep pace with. Pick: Gonzaga 90, Iowa 83
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