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The Matchups: Xavier vs Gonzaga

Before every game, Rick takes a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Saturday night's Elite Eight showdown with No. 1 seeded Gonzaga.

Quentin Goodin FR (6-4, 194) vs Nigel Williams-Goss JR (6-3, 195)

Williams-Goss is a tremendous decision-maker and playmaker with good size for a lead guard. He scores more points in transition (4.7 ppg) than any other play type so Xavier will have to make sure it does a great job of stopping the ball. He's not a great athlete but he is great at changing his pace to beat defenders off the dribble and he has great touch on his floaters and runners from a few feet away from the rim. He never gets sped up and always seems to be under control. The Bulldogs set a lot of high screens for him and space the floor well so he has plenty of room to isolate, and he's good at involving his teammates in pick-and-roll actions. He's averaging 16.5 points (49.6% FG, 35.3% 3PT), 5.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.8 steals in 32.3 minutes per game. 

Moderate Edge Gonzaga

JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Josh Perkins SO (6-4, 203)

Perkins is another point guard that plays alongside Williams-Goss and often brings the ball up the floor. He can make plays off the dribble but he's typically penetrating to dish to a teammate. The majority of his shots taken are jumpers. He's taken 143 of his 214 field goal attempts from beyond the arc (66.8%). He hit three 3-pointers (3-for-9) in the first round of the tournament against South Dakota State and finished with 10 points, but he was mostly a non-factor while playing 25 and 29 minutes against Northwestern and West Virginia. He's averaging 8.1 points (42.1% FG, 39.9% 3PT), 3.3 assists, and 2.2 rebounds in 28.8 minutes per game.

Slight Edge Xavier

Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Jordan Matthews SR (6-4, 203) 

Matthews is mostly a spot-up shooter. He typically spaces from the wing to the corner and waits for Karnowski to fire a pass to him from the opposite block when the double-team comes. He's also a solid ballhandler but he doesn't really use that skill to make plays off the bounce. He's a solid athlete and he sort of plays the "Remy Abell" role for the Bulldogs in the sense that he's the one they're usually looking to advance pass the ball up the floor to in transition. He's scored in double-figures while hitting three 3-pointers in all three of Gonzaga's NCAA Tournament games. He's 9-for-25 (36%) during that stretch. For the season, he's the team's third-leading scorer at 10.7 points per game (41.5% FG, 39.1% 3PT) to go with 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 27.7 minutes. 

Even

Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Jonathan Williams JR (6-9, 226)

Williams is a well-rounded forward with decent athleticism. He can score in the post, he has good feel for how to move without the ball (which is important when playing alongside Karnowski), he'll get on the offensive glass, he's a good catch-and-finish guy, and he'll step out for the occasional jumper. He's Gonzaga's fourth-option but he fits in with his teammates well and can be a difference-maker. He had 13 points (4-7 FG, 1-1 3PT) and six rebounds in the win over West Virginia. He's averaging 10.1 points (59% FG, 38.9% 3PT) and 6.6 boards in 24.0 minutes per game.

Moderate Edge Xavier 

Tyrique Jones FR (6-8, 237) vs Przemek Karnowski SR (7-1, 300)

Karnowski is a giant with good hands, good feet, and good touch. In terms of his style of play, he's very similar to Matt Stainbrook but he's more physically imposing. He's comfortable catching the ball anywhere on the floor and taking a few dribbles or making a pass. They're able to run their offense through him on the block because of his feel for the game. When he catches in the post, he loves the quick baby hook, but he also has a great drop-step and other more complex pivot moves. Against zones, the Bulldogs like to look for him on high-low passes where he's gained position underneath the defenders and walked them up the lane a few feet. He's averaging 12.4 points (60.2% FG, 58.8% FT), 5.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 23.0 minutes per game. 

Moderate Edge Gonzaga

Xavier Bench vs Gonzaga Bench

Junior Silas Melson (6-4, 195) is a backup guard with some versatility that provides steady ballhandling and shooting. He can take over the reigns at point guard or play on the wing alongside Williams-Goss or Perkins. He's averaging 7.4 points (44.4% FG, 37.5% 3PT), 2.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 24.2 minutes per game. He hasn't played a big role in terms of his scoring in the postseason, but he's rebounded really well so far in the tournament. Freshman Zach Collins (7-0, 230) is an impressive young big man that can really rebound and has shown a lot of promise as a scorer. He's efficient in post-ups and can step out to hit the occasional jumper, but he's also fluid and gets off the floor well which makes him especially useful as the roll man after setting screens. He's averaging 10.0 points (65.2% FG, 45% 3PT), 5.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 17.3 minutes per game. He played really well in tournament wins over South Dakota State and Northwestern but struggled against West Virginia on Thursday night.

Even

Overall

Gonzaga is the No. 1 rated team in the country on KenPom.com. The Bulldogs are sitting at 15th in offensive efficiency and first in defensive efficiency. Xavier is 30th overall, 27th in offense and 67th in defense. Gonzaga plays at a good pace on offense and they get a ton of high percentage looks around the basket. They rank fourth in the country in 2-point field goal percentage at 57.6 percent. While they shoot the 3-pointer at a pretty good clip (37.4%), they don't shoot it that often as only 25.7 percent of their total points come from beyond the arc which ranks 289th in the country. Xavier ranks 230th in that category with 28.6 of its points coming from 3-point range. The Zags have seen man-to-man defenses 85 percent of the time and zone 15 percent, with a slight dip in their efficiency against the zones, albeit in a very limited sample size. They're a strong defensive rebounding team but crashing the offensive glass for second chance points is not one of their strengths. On defense, Gonzaga plays a standard man-to-man about 90 percent of the time. Occasionally, they'll throw out a 2-3 zone, which we may see in this matchup because of the problems Bluiett could present for them, but they haven't used it often. The Zags are ranked what they're ranked and seeded what they're seeded because they're really good. They play really hard, they're well-coached, and they bring it every night. However, Xavier matches up better against them than anyone else the Musketeers have faced in the tournament. This should be a war. 

Predicted score: Gonzaga 74 Xavier 71


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