The No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs open their Good Sam Empire Classic schedule with a matchup with the Central Michigan Chippewas on Monday night. The opening tip of this contest is scheduled for 11 p.m. ET at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The Bulldogs (4-0) have rolled through their first four opponents as they look to reach the NCAA title game for a second straight season. Gonzaga is coming off a 92-50 rout of the visiting Bellarmine Knights on Friday night.
The Chippewas (1-2) earned their first win in their last contest, topping the Eastern Illinois Panthers 62-61 on Nov. 15. Central Michigan has yet to play at home, opening with three straight road games before heading to Las Vegas for this tournament.
Although the Bulldogs have looked pretty darn good so far, coach Mark Few is still trying to get his team ready for the tough schedule ahead. Gonzaga was able to easily defeat overmatched Bellarmine on Friday night, but Few came away impressed with his team’s defense against the Knights.
“I was really, really happy with our effort,” Few said after Friday’s win. “That’s not an easy team to chase around and guard. Those were probably our best defensive numbers of the year.”
The Bulldogs forced 18 turnovers and limited Bellarmine to just three made three-pointers in the contest.
Of course, the Gonzaga defense can ge t lost in the headlines. The Bulldogs are averaging 89.8 points per game and shooting 55.1 percent from the floor, including 37.8 percent from 3-point range.
All-American big man Drew Timme is leading the way for Gonzaga with 20.8 points per game, connecting on 65.3 percent of his shots. He teams with 7-foot freshman Chet Holmgren (11.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.0 blocks) to form an imposing duo on the interior.
Sophomore guard Julian Strawther has also emerged as a scoring threat, averaging 14.8 points and hitting 50 percent of his three-point attempts. Strawther is also hitting the boards, ranking second on the team with 5.5 per game.
The Chippewas have struggled to score, averaging just 65.3 points per game. The road schedule certainly hasn’t helped, but Central Michigan is going to have to really raise its game to compete against the best team in college basketball.
Senior guard Jermaine Jackson Jr. has been the most consistent offensive threat for the Chippewas, scoring 14.3 points and dishing out 4.3 assists per game off the bench. Jackson’s go-ahead layup at the buzzer earned Central Michigan its first win.
Guard Brian Taylor at 6-6 leads the team in rebounding with 7.3 per game, but there is some height in the CMU lineup. Starting forwards Harrison Henderson (6-11) and Aundre Polk (6-10) need to play big against the Gonzaga front line.
This one could potentially be a 30-point game by halftime with the way the Chippewas struggle to score and the Bulldogs are able to light up the scoreboard. Gonzaga has some big-name opponents on the horizon, so it will make quick work of Central Michigan in preparation for those matchups.
When doing your college basketball betting, take Gonzaga to win and cover.