The Gonzaga Bulldogs and Kentucky Wildcats are set to square off in an epic, all-time non-conference matchup at the Spokane Arena on November 20, 2022, with a return game in Kentucky the following year.
Much of the conversation about this game so far has been about the location, with John Calipari making it clear he will not play in an arena as small as The Kennel, pushing for the game to instead be played at the larger, but less intimate, Spokane Arena down the street.
Setting opinion about the game location aside (and there is a lot of opinion out there on the matter) this contest features what should be one of the best individual one-on-one matchups of the entire season between Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe and Gonzaga’s Drew Timme.
In fact, according to Jared Berson, this is the first time a returning AP Player of the Year (Tshiebwe) and a two-time AP All-American (Timme) will face each other head-to-head since December 1, 1973(!) when UCLA’s Bill Walton went up against Maryland’s Tom McMillen and secured a one point victory for the Bruins.
Tshiebwe’s career path has been quite a bit different from Timme’s. He began his career at West Virginia, starting 41 games in two seasons while playing 22.4 minutes per night and averaging 10.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 54.5% on two-pointers.
He then transferred to Kentucky and the glow-up was immediate. He averaged 17.4 points and 15.2 rebounds per game for the Wildcats last year, shooting 60.6% on two pointers and of course winning AP Player of the Year.
Timme has plenty of experience going up against the best of the best, and unsurprisingly his track record even against high level big men is excellent.
We can start with a 12/2/20 game between the Zags and West Virginia, where Timme had 17 points against Tshiebwe and the Zags secured a victory, although Timme shot just 41.2% from the field and Tshiebwe was a far more efficient 5-8 from the field and 4-4 from the line, posting 14 and 9 in just 21 minutes of action.
Gonzaga’s next game was against Iowa and the great Luka Garza. It was another victory for the Zags in a season full of them, although Garza had no problem dropping 30 points with 10 rebounds on 13-18 shooting from the field. Timme had a respectable 15 and 9 in that one, shooting 6-10 from the field, but Jalen Suggs and his 27 points is what led GU to victory.
The NCAA Tournament that season is when Timme got some of the best tests of his entire career, passing with flying colors. Against Oklahoma in the second round, Timme dropped 30 points on 9-12 shooting and 12-14 from the charity stripe. His opponent: Brady Manek, one of the best players in all of college hoops last year for North Carolina who had just three points on 1-8 shooting in his final game in a Sooners uniform.
Evan Mobley is already one of the NBA’s elite shot blockers, but he had exactly zero in USC’s Elite 8 loss to Gonzaga in 2021 – while Timme dropped 23 points on 10-18 shooting.
The current version of Tshiebwe is significantly improved from who Timme faced at West Virginia a few years ago, but the Gonzaga big man is even more battle tested as well – and the matchup between these two should be one of the best one-on-one battles in a college basketball game we have seen in a very long time.
Host – Locked on Zags Podcast
Writer – Ducks Wire