While it may seem a little crazy to think that the race for the WCC championship could be over later tonight, it's not so far-fetched when you really think about it. If Gonzaga can open conference play with road wins at Portland and St.Mary's, it would seem that the WCC is pretty much in the hands of the Zags. After facing these two teams on the road, Gonzaga will only have to travel and face: USF, Pepperdine, Santa Clara, USD, and LMU. Of that group, I can really only see USD and LMU even providing a challenge on their home court. Obviously, none of us expect Gonzaga to drop a conference game at the MAC, so the meeting tonight in Moraga seems like the most likely loss for this team in conference play. Obviously variables such as injuries or academic problems could alter the course of the WCC in the blink of an eye, but if Gonzaga leaves St. Mary's with a win, I'm pretty much prepared to consider the WCC race over in the first week of conference play.Although Omar Samhan tends to be the enemy in the eyes of many Gonzaga fans, it's important to note just how good of a senior year he is having. Samhan is averaging 20.8 points and 10.9 boards so far this season. Samhan will be the most talented big man that Rob Sacre has faced this season, and Samhan has the ability to score both with the jumper and with his back-to-the-basket game. It's essential to realize that Samhan is no longer the fat and rude guy that he was as a freshman when he was too busy flipping off the Kennel Club to focus on his game. Samhan is now a toned and talented big man, who will be an absolute load for our guys to handle tonight.
In the absence of Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova has made sure that the Gaels have not missed a beat at the point guard position. Dellavedova is an excellent fit with the Gaels because he can really push the tempo and shoot the ball both in transition and in the half court offense. Meech will need to be aware of Dellavedova is at all points throughout the game, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see either Grant or Manny spend some time on him as well. If the Zags can do a good job of limiting the open looks from the perimeter and make St.Mary's earn their points every possession (ie. no easy fast breaks and open three-pointers) then they have an excellent chance of pulling out the key road victory.
I wouldn't be surprised to see St.Mary's use a 2-3 zone defense after seeing Portland have so much success with that in the second half. If this is the case, Gonzaga needs to make sure that they don't just settle for three-pointers. Instead, they must look to find the holes in the zone, and find both Elias and Rob in the paint on dribble penetration. There is not a guy in this conference who can stay with Elias for 40 minutes, and I surely expect him to be a focal point tonight. Also, if the Gaels do play a lot of zone defense, I would expect Bol to see a lot of action in an attempts to stretch out the defense and open up the lane for the bigs. Behind a huge game from Elias Harris, I expect the Zags to earn a huge 81-70 victory.