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Three keys for No. 1 Gonzaga to beat No. 16 Virginia

This will be the undefeated Zags' fourth top 25 opponent this season, and it brings some unique challenges.

SPOKANE, Wash — Top ranked Gonzaga men's basketball will take on 16th ranked Virginia in a primetime matchup on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.

This will be the undefeated Zags' fourth top 25 opponent this season, and it brings some unique challenges.

Here are the three keys for the Bulldogs to win.


The biggest thing to watch out for will be pace of play.

Virginia averages the least possessions per game in college basketball. They run offense slowly, Gonzaga prefers a faster pace.

Virginia will drain the shot clock all while shooting 50 percent from the field. The Cavaliers only turn the ball over on average 8.4 times per game too. UVA plays clean, efficient basketball that doesn't allow teams to push the pace.

It's just hard to do so when teams have to take the ball off an inbounds pass so much.

What will Gonzaga have to do to create opportunities? The Zags must play great defense.

If Gonzaga does, they can really utilize the weapons on their offense with transition off of missed shots and by forcing turnovers. The easy points for Gonzaga will come off the hard work the Zags put in on defense.

The Cavaliers haven't played a team as good as Gonzaga in transition this season, but if this becomes a half court offense type of game, it's advantage Virginia.

Gonzaga has to buckle down and create their own opportunities to speed things up.


The reason this will be a tough matchup for Gonzaga in the half court is Virginia's ability to play defense.

The Cavaliers rank tied for fourth in scoring defense. They've only allowed 54 points per game. Gonzaga is the third highest scoring offense and arguably the best offense in college basketball.

The Cavs have held opponents to 36% shooting this season. The Bulldogs are shooting 55% this season.

Virginia allows an average of 20.4 points in the paint. Gonzaga averages 56 points in the paint.

Virginia hasn't played an offense like Gonzaga's. Gonzaga hasn't played a defense like Virginia's.

As the saying goes, something's gotta give. The question is, which one will it be?

A thing to note here though is that Gonzaga has faced far tougher level of competition than Virginia so far. Virginia hasn't played a major conference opponent this season, Gonzaga has played four. The Bulldogs are a little more battle tested for this game.


A question mark for Gonzaga coming into this game is how sharp they will be.

The last time they played was this past Monday and Tuesday in a back to back against Northwestern State. In those games, they looked good in two halves, and they looked very sloppy in the other two.

The first game Gonzaga didn't come out aggressive, turned the ball over, and played far below their potential. They fixed it in the second half.

In the second half of the second game, they let their foot off the gas and gave up 61 points to the Demons, who ranked 251st offensively in college basketball. The 61 points was the most the Zags gave up in a half in over a decade.

Few said that first half of that game was the best defense they'd played all season before the second half meltdown.

Which Gonzaga team will we see?

They've gotten up for the big games so far this season, but they need to stay focused and stay aggressive.


The Bulldogs and Cavaliers will play on Saturday at 1 p.m. That game will air on KREM. Before the game at 12:30, we will have a Bulldog Madness special highlighting neat features and breaking down this top 25 matchup.