NCAA tourney preview: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 8 Northwestern

NCAA tourney preview: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 8 Northwestern

Before No. 8 Northwestern takes on No. 1 Gonzaga in the West Region on Saturday afternoon, BTN researcher Harold Shelton shares with you what the Wildcats have working in their favor and working against them in their matchup vs. the Bulldogs.

Working in Northwestern’s favor:

  • One of the best defensive teams in the nation, ranking 22nd in field goal percentage (40.2 percent), 17th in 2-point shooting, and 26th in blocks.
  • They don’t turn the ball over (fewer than 16% of their possessions, which is 27th nationally) and they make their free throws (75 percent).
  • Scottie Lindsey is back. Northwestern was 18-4 before he was sick. They struggled when he was out and when he was trying to work his way back into shape. He’s averaging 15.8 PPG and shooting 50 percent from the floor in the last four games.
  • Bryant McIntosh has the ability to take over games. The owner of 11 20-point games this season, he tied a season-high with 25 points against Vanderbilt.
  • Gonzaga doesn’t force many turnovers, as opponents turn it over on fewer than 18 percent of their possessions, which ranks 222nd nationally.
  • It’s been a while since Gonzaga played a team from a major conference. The last time that happened was December 18th against Tennessee. The last time they played a NCAA Tournament team from a major conference was December 3rd against Arizona. Will they be ready for Northwestern’s physicality?

Working against Northwestern:

  • The Wildcats don’t shoot it well, making just 34 percent of their 3-pointers, which ranks 204th nationally and make 49 percent of their 2-pointers, which is 195th nationally.
  • Northwestern isn’t great on the defensive glass, allowing opponents to grab more than 30 percent of their offensive rebounds, which is 230th nationally. Gonzaga is a very tall team but they aren’t a great offensive rebounding team, ranking 146th nationally.
  • Gonzaga will try to use their height to bully Northwestern inside. They are fourth in the nation in 2-point shooting, making 58% of their shots. They make 66 percent of their shots at the rim, which is 30th nationally. Nearly 43 percent of their total shot attempts come at the rim.
  • Gonzaga likes to play fast on offense and they don’t turn it over, giving it away on nearly 16 percent of their possessions, which is 24th nationally.
  • This is easily Mark Few’s best defensive team. In fact, it’s the most efficient defensive team in the country and nothing comes easy against these Bulldogs. Teams shoot fewer than 40 percent from the floor on 2-point shots, which leads the country and fewer than 30% from 3, which ranks 7th nationally. They also lead the nation in defense at the rim (45.6% FG) and half court defense. The problem is that they’re good in transition defense too, ranking 5th nationally.
  • If Northwestern gets in foul trouble, it could be a problem against the Gonzaga front court. They start a 6’9 power forward and a 7’1”, 300 pound center in Przemek Karnowski. They also bring a 7-footer off the bench in Zach Collins. Those three players are part of a group of five that all average double figures, led by Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss, who averages 16.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.8 APG and 1.7 SPG.
Harold Shelton III, BTN Studio Researcher

Harold Shelton III is a BTN Studio Researcher who writes up weekly stats for BTN & BTN.com. Follow his work on Twitter @BTNStatsGuys.

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