December 5, 2014

Gonzaga vs Arizona

This is a difficult one to call. It’s defense vs. offense, #3 vs. #9. Many pundits are expecting Arizona to win big at home. Perhaps some are biased in UA’s favor from memories of ‘Zona’s beat-down of the Zags in the last NCAA Tourney, that ended Gonzaga’s season last year. The game is also in the desert where Arizona rarely loses. They are in the midst of a 25 home game winning streak, and also hold the nations longest regular-season non-conf winning streak at 34 games. Coincidentally, the last time they lost was in December 2011. Who was the team that did it? Here it comes…Gonzaga.

Perhaps ‘Zona wants to get some payback for the Zags wrecking their winning streak. Maybe they think because they rolled us last year it will be another blow-out. I say, not so fast, because this is a very different Zag team.

The addition of Kyle Wiltjer should spell trouble for ‘Zona. Coming over from Kentucky, he has lots of experience in big games, so he will not be rattled by the rowdy venue. If he can float out to the perimeter and hit threes, it will cause problems for their bigs. He’s been in a bit of a slump from deep of late but anyone who can hit 70 of 75 consecutive 3s in a Utube video should be able to knock down say, 4 or 5 on the road. This game will be telling too. Can Wiltjer really stay in the paint and bang with the big boys? Certainly, we’ll need him to roam out to the perimeter, stretch the defense and bury threes, but we’ll need him to go hard in the paint too because Arizona is big and physical. It’s time so show how much the redshirt strengthening helped his inside game.
Bryon Wesley is something else that was lacking on last years team. He is a starting wing that can do it all. He is athletic, can score all over the paint, has good size, and plays pretty mean D as well. A boisterous crowd in the desert won’t faze him either, as he’s already played there several times.

Domas Sabonis will also be a handful for ‘Zona. They will get their first taste of him and they will not like it. He can score in a variety of ways, and is a ferocious rebounder. He will have his hands full with Rondae-Hollis-Jefferson, but I think Domas wins this matchup.

Also, Pangos & Bell are seniors, battle tested and healthy. A hostile crowd like this should be a walk in the park to them but Pangos needs to shake the rep of going blind from deep on the road. Additionally, Bell needs to assert himself on the offensive end and show what he can do in a big game. Remember last season, early on they were smoking hot, but then the injuries mounted? Well, it’s early, they are on fire and healthy. Expect solid games from both.

Arizona has plenty of size, boasting two 7 footers. They will probably put 7’0 junior 245 lb. Kaleb Tarczewski on Karnowski. They have similar stats with Kaleb hitting a higher % from the line and Przemek being a bigger body at 290 pounds. Other than that it looks to be a pretty even match-up between centers.

If the Wildcats have a weakness it’s scoring consistently. They have a tendency to go cold for extended minutes. They cover this up well because as they stall on offense, their very good defense holds it down while they finally get rolling. With Gonzaga’s depth plus all the offensive weapons, that might get them in some serious trouble.

Keys to victory:

1. Get off to a fast start
2. Wiltjer needs his deep shot falling
3. Pangos & Bell need to show they can hit the three on the road
4. Avoid foul trouble w/ our bigs
5. Use our depth, go 10 deep and slow down ‘Zona’s D

Key matchups:

1. Pangos vs  McConnell- both are on all kinds of preseason award lists. Pangos for his offense, while McConnell for defense.

2. Sabonis vs Hollis- expect a battle here. Two of the nations best 6th men.

Look for a fairly low scoring event that will probably come down to a possession or two one way or the other. Zona’s D does not give up a lot of points but their offense struggles from time to time. Can Gonzaga’s potent offense get a couple extra buckets along the way, or will home-court for ‘Zona plus their D prove too much?

Zags 71   UA 69 


Osco said...

Pretty good summary and prediction. Fairly low scoring game coming down to the last shot.
Just hoping that the team gets over the tough loss quickly and continues to grow.

gaz-tastic said...

Thanks, sometimes I get lucky, lol.

Uneasy about tonight as I recall Zags do not play the best in the Arena. Struggled against EWU, Western Kentucky, and losses to Memphis that I remember.

But, we've got a good team. Should be able to bounce back and take it out on Cougs.

They shoot lights out from deep, so we'll see if we've really improved in that area.