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ESPN: Defense, free-throw shooting could keep Gonzaga from winning the NCAA Tournament

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 8, 2020

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) shoots a free throw during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cal State Bakersfield in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (Young Kwak / AP)
Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) shoots a free throw during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cal State Bakersfield in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (Young Kwak / AP)
From staff reports

If defense and free throws win championships, ESPN doesn’t like the title chances for most teams atop the college basketball world – including No. 1 Gonzaga.

In a story posted Wednesday titled “Why Duke, Gonzaga and 19 other ranked teams won’t win the NCAA tournament,” author Kyle Soppe broke down the recent defensive and free-throw trends for teams in the Associated Press Top-25 rankings.

“Virginia’s run to glory last season helped shine a spotlight on the value of defense, and the numbers suggest that mentality is here to stay,” Soppe wrote. “Over the past decade (2010-2019), the average champion has ranked 56th in the country in terms of scoring defense, with the majority of champions ranking inside the top 35.”

Offense is far from the problem for the Bulldogs (16-1, 2-0 West Coast Conference), who rank first in Division I at 87.5 points per game. On the defensive side though, GU is allowing 68.6 points (178th).

“Love the Zags, but they’ve allowed at least 70 points in seven straight and three of their top five scorers are shooting under 67% from the stripe,” Soppe wrote.

Gonzaga plays at San Diego on Thursday at 7 p.m. (KHQ).

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