The biggest stage in college basketball: Zags vs. Duke

This game is one of those moments where you are excited and proud to be a follower of the Gonzaga program. Sure it was great playing at Michigan St. and winning a high profile tournament like the Maui Invitational. However, none of that compares to playing one of the most revered programs in college basketball at Madison Square Garden. When Gonzaga meets Duke on Saturday afternoon is will be a game televised on CBS and they will be playing at the greatest arena in the country, in arguably the most popular and unique city in the country. Even more important is the fact that they are facing one of the best Duke teams of this decade, with the Blue Devils ranked in the top 10 heading into this game. Coach K remains one of the most respected coaches in the industry. With that said, the days of Gonzaga looking in awe at a program like Duke are long gone. These Zags have one of the most recognizable coaches in the country, and have the same amount of talent that Duke will put on the court. The one question that remains is whether or not his team can elevate it's game on the biggest stage in the sport.

Much like the Zags, Duke has lots of experience and talent in their back court. Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler are the two most productive and important pieces on this Duke team, with Singler being one of the more difficult guys to guard in the country. Neither is a particularly elite athlete, but both have great intelligence on the court, and both need to have hands in their face on every shot they take. In Elias Harris, I think the Zags have the ideal match up to limit Singler, as Harris has the athleticism and toughness to limit Singler and make every shot and touch difficult for him. In terms of guarding Scheyer, I would assume that it will be a combo of Meech, Gray, and Arop. I don't think Matt or Grant are good enough defenders to fight through all the screens that Scheyer will receive on the offensive end. Therefore, those two will likely match up with Andre Dawkins, who can shoot the lights out but isn't a complete offensive player yet.

On the offensive end, there is a lot to like for the Zags. I don't think Duke has an answer for Matt Bouldin, as neither Scheyer or Nolan Smith have the combination of quickness and strength to handle Matt on the perimeter or on the drive. Elias should be able to use his versatility to force Singler or Lance Thomas into a tough position, as neither of them have a chance if Elias is playing smart and aggressively. It will also be important that Gonzaga makes sure they get Rob the ball in areas where he can establish offensive position, as I don't think either of the Plumlee brothers or Brian Zoubek can handle Rob/

Another area where I like Gonzaga in this game is in the depth department. Duke has a highly skilled starting five, but there bench is underwhelming. If the coaching staff can get a nice rhythm going with rotation, and utilize match ups for guys like Bol, Manny, and Grant off the bench, Gonzaga might be able to wear down Duke with so many different looks and aggressive play on both ends. It is this depth and versatility that I not only think will be the key for the game against Duke, but also the key to success the rest of the season. Behind a strong game from Elias Harris and the Gonzaga bench, I expect Gonzaga to pull away late for the 78-73 win.

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