Corey Kispert and the Gonzaga Bulldogs will play their first game in over two weeks on Saturday when they visit undefeated Iowa in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)
- Gonzaga (3-0) is a 3.5-point favorite over Iowa (6-0) on Saturday in a matchup of national title contenders at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Gonzaga has not played since Dec. 2 after a player and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19
- Iowa’s Luka Garza is the leading national Player of the Year candidate, averaging 29.2 points a game
This one has the potential to be a shootout.
Top-ranked Gonzaga returns to action for the first time in more than two weeks to face No. 3 Iowa at 12 p.m. ET Saturday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The game matches the two best offenses in the country in terms of KenPom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency. Iowa is averaging 118.9 points per possession while Gonzaga’s PPP/100 is 117.9.
The Hawkeyes also leads the nation in scoring with 100.5 points a game. Gonzaga is second with a 93.0 average.
Gonzaga is favored in the matchup of serious national championship contenders.
#1 Gonzaga vs #3 Iowa Odds
|Gonzaga||-176||-3.5 (-112)||Over 171.5 (-106)|
|Iowa||+148||+3.5 (-108)||Under 171.5 (-114)|
Odds taken Dec. 18 from FanDuel
Gonzaga is 3-0 overall and 2-1 against the spread. Iowa is also perfect at 6-0 and has a 5-1 ATS mark.
Will Gonzaga Be Rusty?
Gonzaga will be playing for the first time since Dec. 2 when it defeated West Virginia 87-82 in Indianapolis.
The Bulldogs were set to face No. 2 Baylor two days later in a much-anticipated showdown, also in Indy. However, the game was postponed a few hours before tipoff because a Gonzaga player and staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
Gonzaga then paused its program for two weeks before returning to practice Wednesday. Coach Mark Few said getting the Bulldogs ready to play again after the long layoff has been one of the biggest challenges of his 22 years on the job.
The forward duo of sophomore Drew Timme (23.3) and senior Corey Kispert (22.3) were averaging a combined 45.6 points a game when Gonzaga went into shutdown mode. Kispert is shooting 60.5% and Timme is right behind at 60.4%.
Drew Timme is a mood: pic.twitter.com/RInWnfhRVW
— Taylor Brooks (@TaylorBrooksTV) February 2, 2020
In all, five players are scoring in double figures. Junior guard Joel Ayayi (13.7) is third on the team, followed by freshman guard Jalen Suggs (13.3) and junior guard Andrew Nembhard (11.7).
Ayayi tops the Bulldogs in rebounds with a 7.7 average. Suggs is living up to his reputation of one of the recruits in program history as he is pulling down 6.3 rebounds and dishing out 4.7 assists a game.
Ayayi and Suggs are also averaging 2.3 steals.
Gonzaga showed its outstanding balance the last time it took the floor as four players scored at least 17 points against West Virginia. Ayayi led the way with 21.
2021 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Odds Tracker
Garza The Great
Iowa is led by senior center Luka Garza, who is favored to win both the Wooden Award and Naismith Player of the Year. Garza matching up with Timme should be a treat.
Garza is living up to all the hype as he is averaging 29.2 points a game and shooting a phenomenal 68.4% from 3-point range. He is also grabbing 9.0 rebounds and blocking 2.2 shots a game.
“He’s stronger than everybody else, he works harder than everybody else and he’s more skilled than anyone else in the game…that’s why Luka Garza will win the Wooden Award for University of Iowa” pic.twitter.com/w4ZyIVSlNo
— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) December 13, 2020
In the Hawkeyes’ last game, Garza poured in 23 points in just 20 minutes as Iowa rolled over visiting Northern Illinois 106-53 on Sunday. He knocked down five of seven 3-point attempts and had eight rebounds.
Junior wing Joe Wieskamp added 20 points in 19 minutes while making nine of 13 field goal attempts. He is Iowa’s second-leading scorer with a 15.2 average.
Also with a double-figure scoring average is sophomore Jack Nunge at 10.8 despite playing 18.5 minutes a game. Nunge missed the first two games of the season following the death of his father.
Iowa leads the all-time series 2-1, winning both games in the mid-1980s.
The other meeting came in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga notched an 87-68 victory in a third-round game in Seattle.
The stakes are not as high this time, but this matchup has the feel of a potential Final Four game. Even with Gonzaga having a long layoff, look for the game to be close throughout.
The Pick: Iowa +3.5 (-108)
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.