The fact that Gonzaga is heading to East Lansing to take on the #2 ranked team in the country is why I love Gonzaga basketball so much. While other teams are kicking off the season facing pathetic competition, this team is instead taking on one of the best teams in the country on their home court. Even as I sit and I write this preview, I truly have no idea what to actually expect from this game. I tend to think that Michigan St. enters this season a little overrated. I understand that they made the national championship game this past season, and that Kalin Lucas is one of the elite guards in the entire country. However, there are numerous question marks about the front court for the Spartans, and they have already battled some injuries early in the season. Also, I think that Michigan St. is a classic example of a team that got hot at the right time at the end of last season, and everyone seems to think that form will carry over into this season. I do think this game will be a great challenge and test for the young Zags, but don't include me in the camp that thinks keeping this game close would be a great accomplishment.
continue reading after the poll and jump for more on Zags-Spartans...After watching this team for two games, I believe that Elias Harris and Rob Sacre present a huge advantage for this team. Although Delvon Roe is a highly skilled guy, he doesn't have a lot of experience playing against guys like Rob Sacre and Elias Harris. Equally important is the fact that Raymar Morgan has battled an injury throughout the preseason, and has been limited in practice and games. Elias and Rob have the opportunity to use their size and athleticism to set the tone and dominate in the paint. I know it's something that I have mentioned numerous times, but the fact that both these guys played against great competition with their respective national teams this summer means they will not be intimidated by some highly ranked recruits. With that said, I think one of the huge keys to securing this victory will be getting contributions from a third big guy. This could be any one of Will, Kelly, or Andy, but one of them needs to step up and provide minutes and production.
With the front court being an advantage for Gonzaga, this game will ultimately come down to how well the Zags can slow down the Spartans back court. Meech Goodson will have his hands full in trying to limit Kalin Lucas. However, Meech is one of the rare guys in the country that can actually match the quickness that Lucas has. Meech must be prepared to play physical in the half court and also be ready to run the half court offense offensively. Steven Gray and Matt Bouldin will also have to play at a high level to slow down Chris Allen and Durrell Summers. Both are solid role guys for Tom Izzo, so Steven and Matt must be ready to play strong defense, while also attacking the rim when the opportunity is presented.
The other factor that I have to weigh in when making this decision is just how this team will respond to playing in front of a hostile and loud crowd. However, with the experience that guys like Matt, Steven, Rob, and Meech have had playing in front of difficult crowds, I think that the freshman will have a solid understanding of how to handle the pressure and intensity that will be thrown their way. After thinking about this game for the past 24 hours, I have decided to put my credibility on the line with this prediction. Behind a breakout performance from Meech Goodson, the Zags go into East Lansing and leave with a 76-68 victory.