Like we mentioned a few days ago, December is typically the most telling and crucial month for Gonzaga basketball. While November is valuable for good starts and solid showings in early season tournaments, December is when most of the travel kicks in for this team and is when the nonconference schedule really fires up. Much was made about Mark Few's scheduling this season; most notably his decision to schedule Michigan State so early in the year drew a lot of questions. As we look back, this may have been his smartest move. Without their experience in East Lansing, I'm not sure this young team would have had the moxie to come back and beat Colorado in the opening round. If that happens, Maui could have snowballed into a vacation from hell for this team. Instead, the Zags were Maui champs and are now well-entrenched in both polls.
Last year, December was a mess for Mark Few. After a brutal and demanding Old Spice Classic, the Zags had a quick turnaround and had to travel to Indianapolis to take on the Hoosiers. After winning there, they went on to the always-emotional rivalry game against WSU in Pullman. They routed the Cougs in their home gymnasium but that was really the only bright spot from there on out. The Zags then traveled to Phoenix and only Austin Daye bothered to show up and the #4 Zags were upset by Arizona. After a "filler" game against Texas Southern, Gonzaga lost an emotional heartbreaker against Connecticut and then the wheels fell off. With the students home for Christmas break, Gonzaga lost to Portland State in the MAC, an inexcusable loss. Mark Few's squad finished December with a whimper in what I think was this staff's biggest scheduling snafu, a road loss to Utah on New Year's Eve.
We are now about to begin the December slate of games and just looking at the schedule, it is another stroke of genius by Mark Few and co. Instead of a quick turnaround after an emotional early season tourney, Gonzaga doesn't leave the state until December 19th. Games with Washington State, Wake Forest, Augustana, and Davidson all provide nice tests without leaving the Evergreen State. A marquee game with Duke in New York City will be Gonzaga's only "road" game and then they come back home for Eastern Washington and Oklahoma in Spokane to finish out the month.
After that, you have Illinois and Memphis as the only nonconference tests and, of course, the West Coast Conference slate which is becoming more and more difficult every day. With that being said, it *should* be a Merry Christmas for Gonzaga if they take care of business and beat teams they should beat. This week should be the toughest of the month for the Zags and we are really about to learn a whole lot about this club by Saturday night.
|Washington St. Cougars||Wednesday, December 02 2009||6:00 PM PST||coverage|
|Wake Forest Demon Deacons||Saturday, December 05 2009||2:30 PM PST||coverage|
|Augustana,Ill. Vikings||Wednesday, December 09 2009||6:00 PM PST||coverage|
|Davidson Wildcats||Saturday, December 12 2009||4:00 PM PST||coverage|
|Duke Blue Devils||Saturday, December 19 2009||1:00 PM PST||coverage|
|Eastern Washington Eagles||Monday, December 28 2009||6:05 PM PST||coverage|
|Oklahoma Sooners||Thursday, December 31 2009||7:00 PM PST||coverage|