There isn’t a clear-cut key matchup with North Alabama’s balanced approach.
The Lions keep the scorer’s table and officials on their toes with 11 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game, nine of those averaging at least 5.0 points.
The pick here is guard Jamari Blackmon, based on experience and productivity. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is closing in on 100 career games and starts for the Lions. He averaged in double figures in each of the previous three seasons and checks in at 9.6 points this year.
Reserve guard Daniel Ortiz leads North Alabama in scoring (10.6) and 3-point shooting (46.8%) while ranking fifth in minutes (18.5). Senior guard C.J. Brim chips in 9.0 points and 2.9 assists. Payton Youngblood, a 6-5 forward, averages 8.7 points with a team-high 23 3-pointers on 45.1% accuracy.
Blackmon scored a season-high 17 points and added five assists against Central Florida in UNA’s last game Dec. 22. He had 14 points in the season opener against Mississippi State.
Blackmon has made just 36.8% from the field, but he’s connected on 9 of his 15 attempts, including 5 of 8 3s, in the last two games. He hits 92.9% at the free-throw line and made 21 straight to open the season.
He also has experience against Gonzaga, scoring 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting in 34 minutes in a 96-51 loss at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Dec. 28, 2018.
Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard figures to get the starting assignment on Blackmon with Rasir Bolton probably defending Brim.