An early season showdown is on the card when No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor square off Saturday in the Jimmy V Classic at Indianapolis.
The Bulldogs (3-0) own a 102-90 win over then-No. 6 Kansas as part of a strong start. They also recorded an 87-82 win over No. 11 West Virginia on Wednesday in their first game of the Jimmy V Classic.
The Bears (3-0) notched a solid 82-69 victory over No. 5 Illinois on the same night in their first contest at the Jimmy V Classic.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few is expecting a slugfest in a contest that he says is a big one for the sport in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bulldogs were ranked second in the final 2019-20 college basketball poll after the season was halted in March. Baylor was No. 5.
"It is going to be a monster for us," Few told ESPN. "Baylor is really, really good and hungry after last season. ... We knew it was going to be really good for college basketball and probably what college basketball needed. This is a good opportunity for all of us."
Opportunity sure is knocking loudly for the Bears, who are 0-5 all-time against the Zags, including an 83-71 loss in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Baylor coach Scott Drew understands the allure of this contest and what it means for the sport.
"Anytime you have 1 vs. 2 in any sport, it draws great attention, visibility, notoriety, interest," Drew said after the win over Illinois. "They're very similar to our team. They have a lot of guys who can score 15 or 20 points. It's going to be a great game and a great opportunity for us."
Gonzaga's balanced effort against West Virginia saw junior guard Joel Ayayi match his career high of 21 points. Senior forward Corey Kispert and junior guard Andrew Nembhard added 19 apiece.
The Bulldogs had a scare when highly touted freshman guard Jalen Suggs went down with a left ankle injury in the first half. But he later returned in the second half -- which surprised Few -- and ended up playing 26 minutes.
Despite scoring just four points against the Mountaineers, the five-star recruit is averaging 13.3 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds.
"I didn't want him to play, but he was pretty convincing," Few said. "He just tweaked his ankle a little bit. Once the trainers told me that's what it was, he's a pretty ferocious competitor. So he convinced me that he could be a factor."
Sophomore forward Drew Timme leads Gonzaga in scoring at 23.3 points per game with Kispert right behind at 22.3. Ayayi averages 13.7 points and Nembhard is contributing 11.7 off the bench.
Baylor features a quartet of solid scorers. Junior guard Jared Butler averages a team-best 16.3 points, followed by senior guard MaCio Teague (15.7), sophomore guard Adam Flagler (15.7) and junior guard Davion Mitchell (13.0).
Flagler led the way with 18 points off the bench in the victory over Illinois.
"It definitely felt like my teammates and coaches gave me confidence," Flagler said. "That just allowed me to compete and play as hard as I can. I can't give enough credit to my teammates for finding me and me finding them."
--Field Level Media
|3/23/19||BAY 71||GONZ 83||83||35||54.4||71||24||41.7|
|Gonzaga Off vs Baylor Defense|
93.0 Points For
67.7 Points Against
|Baylor Off vs Gonzaga Defense|
93.3 Points For
79.7 Points Against