When No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 16 Virginia meet on CBS at 4 p.m. ET Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, they might have to meet in the middle in more ways than one. The Cavaliers (4-1) are regarded as one of the top defensive teams in the country, while the Bulldogs (6-0) have proven to be an offensive juggernaut.
Something will have to give in what should be one of the most intriguing nonconference games of the 2020-21 college basketball season. Merely getting the game in will be a relief for both programs as they have both dealt with COVID-19 issues during the beginning of the season. The Cavaliers were supposed to play Michigan State and Villanova but saw those games canceled. Gonzaga was supposed to play No. 2 Baylor in a major showdown on Dec. 5 before that game was also canceled just two hours before tip.
But as has been proven several times this year in both college basketball and football, scheduling can be competed on the fly when both sides are motivated to bolster their schedules. That was clearly the case here as two of the nation’s top programs found a date — and a venue — on short notice for what will be a critical game for both.
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- When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
- Where: Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Virginia: After going 18 days between games due to COVID-19 issues, the Cavaliers returned to the court Tuesday and handled William & Mary 76-40. It was the fourth time in five games this season that Virginia has surpassed the 70-point mark after doing so just twice last season. But defense is still the hallmark of the program. Kent State’s 64 points on Dec. 4 are the most the Cavaliers have surrendered this year, and that game went to overtime. San Francisco’s 61-60 upset of Virginia on Nov. 27 was attributable, in large part, to the fact that the Dons hit 13-of-28 3-pointers, which is more of an aberration than the norm for teams playing against Virginia. But UVA will also need to be on its game offensively to have a chance against Gonzaga. Thankfully for coach Tony Bennett, this is a much better 3-point shooting team than last year’s offensively challenged group. Leading scorers Sam Hauser, Jay Huff and Trey Murphy are each shooting better than 43% from deep.
Gonzaga: The last time Virginia and Gonzaga played, was back in the 2006-07 season when the Cavaliers won 108-87. Virginia has not scored that many points in a game since. But Gonzaga surpassed that mark twice last season alone, and this group might be even better offensively than last year’s team. The Bulldogs hung 102 on Kansas in a season-opening win, and their season low through six games is 87 points against a West Virginia team that is expected to be elite defensively. Dynamic wing Corey Kispert and big man Drew Timme are leading the way by averaging more than 20 points apiece. But the Bulldogs have a deep supporting cast, led by freshman guard Jalen Suggs, who has looked like 2021 NBA lottery pick against a solid group of nonconference opponents thus far.
Game prediction, pick
This will be the toughest defense Gonzaga has faced yet. But it will take a herculean effort from the Cavaliers to hold Gonzaga under 80 points. That’s probably what they need to do in order to have a shot. But the Bulldogs have already proven what they can do against top-notch opponents, and there’s no reason to believe they will fall flat here. Prediction: Gonzaga 85, Virginia 76
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