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Player of year candidate Jalen Brunson will test Gonzaga guards

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 5, 2017, 2:01 p.m.

Villanova guard Jalen Brunson is averaging 17.9 points, 4.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds, but it’s his efficiency that sets him apart. (Laurence Kesterson / Associated Press)
Villanova guard Jalen Brunson is averaging 17.9 points, 4.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds, but it’s his efficiency that sets him apart. (Laurence Kesterson / Associated Press)

NEW YORK – Villanova has a balanced crew with a number of playmakers but junior guard Jalen Brunson usually orchestrates one of the nation’s better offenses.

He started on Villanova’s 2016 national championship team. He’s a legitimate player of the year candidate.

Brunson is averaging 17.9 points, 4.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds, but it’s his efficiency that sets him apart. He’s shooting 64 percent from the field, 51 percent from 3 and 84 percent at the free-throw line. His 4.0 assist-to-turnover ratio is tied for 14th nationally.

It sounds like a defensive assignment for Gonzaga’s Silas Melson, who typically guards the opposing team’s best perimeter player.

Josh Perkins also could see time on Brunson to free Melson up to defend backcourt threats Phil Booth (11.4 ppg) or Donte DiVincenzo (11.4 ppg). Those two have combined for 27 3-pointers.