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Gonzaga Basketball: 3 keys for Sweet 16 matchup against the Purdue Boilermakers

Gonzaga is in the Sweet 16 for a record 9 straight years. This season they get a rematch against one of the betting favorites for the National Championship the Purdue Boilermakers

Mar 23, 2024; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Nolan Hickman (11) and Gonzaga
Mar 23, 2024; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Nolan Hickman (11) and Gonzaga / Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports
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Defensive Aggressiveness

Don’t laugh at this one the Bulldogs have been one of the better defensive teams in the tournament up until now and heading into the tournament they were a good defensive team. There are three players who are going to need to come up huge against Purdue and those players are Ryan Nembhard, Anton Watson, and Nolan Hickman. Why those three?  Those are the three players who generate the most turnovers for Gonzaga and ball control is going to be a big thing in this game.

In every one of the Boilers losses, they have had at least 13 or more turnovers. Those games were against Northwestern, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. All those teams were able to pressure the Purdue guards to get them to be careless with the ball. All those games were close games and Braden Smith, and Fletcher Loyer were getting constant pressure from those defenses. It was careless passes that led to runouts and steals that led to easy transition baskets. Purdue doesn’t turn the ball over much as a rule and if they have lost the turnover battle they have not fared well.

Gonzaga has guards in Nembhard and Hickman who are already great defenders, but they have quick hands and are good at getting into passing lanes and intercepting the ball. Watson can defend multiple positions and can get his hands on a lot of passes as well. It helps immensely that Gonzaga and Purdue have played before.

The Bulldogs are going to have their own tape to watch which is going to help them learn how the Boilers played them back in November and put them in the best position to succeed. The more turnovers that Gonzaga can force the better off they will be. The only problem is the Bulldogs don’t run much of a pressure defense they rely a lot on their half-court defense to shut teams down. That will work as long as Gonzaga makes shots and stays competitive on the glass.

Next. Ranking the Sweet 16 teams starting lineups. Ranking the Sweet 16 teams starting lineups. dark

In every Purdue loss the turnovers were compounded because their opponents kept making shots and keeping the pressure on the Boilers. This is going to be one of the best games of the entire week and I can’t wait for it.