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Gonzaga vs. UCLA: Jalen Suggs Should Be Bulldogs’ X-Factor In Final Four

Gonzaga vs. UCLA: Jalen Suggs Should Be Bulldogs’ X-Factor In Final Four article feature image

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Suggs.

  • Jalen Suggs has been incredible in his first season in college basketball.
  • It helps having two Wooden Award-level teammates in Drew Timme and Corey Kispert, but Kyle Remillard thinks Suggs is the player who can propel the Zags to the national championship.
  • Check out Remillard's breakdown of Suggs and his reasoning below.

It’s no secret that Gonzaga is the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament as it’s been in the discussion as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time. 

The Bulldogs are 30-0 on the year and have won 29 of those games by double digits, including 27 in a row. They’re a powerhouse offensively and lead the country by hitting 61.0% of their field goal attempts. The Zags score 126.8 points per every 100 possessions, according to KenPom, which is 10.6 better than UCLA. 

The Bulldogs are projected to have three potential first-round draft picks in the 2021 NBA Draft. That’s no surprise, as they have had at least four players score double digits in all but five games this season. 

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None of those players are more important to Gonzaga’s success than freshman Jalen Suggs.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound point guard was the highest-rated prospect ever to sign with Gonzaga. In his first season, Suggs has averaged 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. When playing top-30 competition according to KenPom, Suggs only improved to average 20.1 points per game. 

He’s the commander of this offense and is a nightmare matchup for any defender, and UCLA’s Tyger Campbell will most likely draw the matchup in the Final Four. Suggs will have a five-inch advantage over the 5-foot-11 Bruin guard. 

In the half-court offense, Suggs can take anyone in the country one-on-one and break down opposing defenses. He’s a true three-way scorer who has converted 59.5% in terms of effective field goal percentage. He’s even more efficient when attacking the rim, where he converts at 67.1%.

The key to this game is going to be the tempo, as UCLA will look to make it a half-court game while Gonzaga wants to get out and run every opportunity it gets. 

Suggs is the X-Factor in this Final Four matchup as he dictates the pace that Gonzaga plays at. Suggs is the ringleader for the Bulldogs’ dominant transition offense that no team has found a way to slow down. He takes defensive rebounds and explodes down the court with his lightning quickness. 

As the floor general, Suggs has unteachable instincts and vision in the open court to make the right decision with the basketball every time. He’s recorded a steal in all but two games this season and converts those turnovers into points for the Bulldogs.

How Suggs plays in the open court has a direct impact on Gonzaga’s success. If he can get out in transition and speed up the tempo of the game up through his rebounding and defense, then the Zags should have no problem covering the number. 

If not, and UCLA turns it into a possession-by-possession half-court game, then the Bulldogs could be in trouble covering the number as a two-touchdown favorite.

I believe Suggs will succeed with pushing the tempo in this game and ultimately help Gonzaga cover. The Zags play with the sixth-fastest tempo in the country and have scored an astonishing 91.6 points per game this season. Opponents have attempted to slow down the game against Gonzaga all season. I attribute that to Suggs. 

One could make the case that anyone in the Gonzaga starting unit could be considered the X-factor for this team, which makes it so exciting to watch. 

They’re a selfless group who seem to pride themselves on finding the open man and making the extra pass rather than focusing the spotlight on any one individual.  

Suggs was a four-star quarterback coming out of high school and could have gone to any school in the country for either basketball or football. Joining Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference only reaffirms his mentality as a team-first player. 

I see Suggs embracing the big stage and ultimately leading Gonzaga to cover the 14.5-point spread.

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