West Coast Conference Championship Preview: BYU vs. Gonzaga
It was just 10 days ago that BYU went into Spokane and knocked off third-ranked Gonzaga by three points. Now, the two West Coast Conference foes will meet for the third time this season -- and it might just be the best matchup of them all.
The Zags have had a great season -- maybe the best we've ever seen from them. They do have two lonely losses on the season and just one since December 10th.
But the Cougars have been playing just as well as the Bulldogs, if not better as of late. They're 8-0 and have won by an average of 13.9 points in their last eight games. That's pretty good.
So, which of the West Coast Conference elite has the advantage in tonight's championship matchup?
Let's take a look.
|Team||nERD||Off. Percentile||Def. Percentile|
Both teams find themselves among the top 25 teams in our power rankings -- Gonzaga at 7 and BYU at 25. Both teams are also in the 98th percentile or higher in offensive efficiency, according to our metrics.
It's true that the two teams are very similar in one way: they like to score... a lot.
As the seventh most efficient offense in the entire nation, the Cougars rank second in points per game, with 83.8 per contest. They have four players (Tyler Haws, Kyle Collinsworth, Chase Fischer, and Anson Winder) who score at least 13.1 points per game, of which three -- Haws, Fischer and Winder -- shoot at least 36% from three and average more than a three per game.
However, despite Collinsworth's lack of perimeter scoring, he's arguably the best offensive playmaker on the team. The junior guard is averaging 13.5 points, 5.9 assists, and 2.3 offensive rebounds on the year. At 6'6", he's a versatile scorer inside the arc.
As for the Zags, they are our number-one offense in all of college basketball. They average 78.8 points per game (a respectable 14th in the nation) on 52.4% shooting from the floor -- that's number one in the country. The Zags don't always get up and down the floor like the Cougars do, but they are extremely efficient at whatever pace they play.
Gonzaga possesses both perimeter scoring, in the form of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Byron Wesley and Kyle Wiltjer, as well as interior scoring. Seven-foot center Przemek Karnowski averages 11 points per game on 61.8% shooting from the floor while freshman standout Domantas Sabonis 9.3 points on 67.8% shooting in 21.7 minutes per contest.
Having such skilled bigs down low helps to get the Bulldogs' three-point shooters good open looks. The trio of Pangos, Wiltjer, and Bell average 5.4 three points makes on 12.6 attempts between them. That's 42.8% from long range -- talk about efficient.
The Zags may have a narrow edge on the Cougars offensively, but defensively they have much more than an edge. According to our numbers, BYU is 141st in the nation defensively, compared to Gonzaga and its 15th ranked defense.
A lot of this might be due to the two squads difference in pace of play. BYU plays at the 12th-fastest pace in all of the land while Gonzaga plays at a much slower pace. The Zags are in the 36th percentile in pace and are 185th among all NCAA hoops teams.
So who holds the upper hand in tonight's matchup?
The numbers say Gonzaga. With a nERD of 17.92, the Bulldogs are 5.73 points better than the Cougars on a neutral court. And tonight, the two will meet at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
With that being said, I wouldn't bet against the smoking hot Cougars. I mean, it is Vegas after all.