The week ahead: Zags look to avenge a pair of losses

KANSAS CITY MO - NOVEMBER 23: Stephen Gray #41 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs shoots during the CBE Classic consolation game against the Marquette Golden Eagles on November 23 2010 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Yep, this is the week for revenge.  Yep, this week Gonzaga plays Santa Clara and San Francisco.  And...yep, I didn't expect this to be revenge week either when the season began. Regardless, we're here.  From January 20th - January 27th, the Zags lost three consecutive conference games to Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Saint Mary's.  The next three games consist of those three teams in that exact order.  While most Bulldog fans would have expected this team's first real conference test to come February 24th when the Zags travel to Moraga, this season has proven to be much more tumultuous than originally expected. 

The next two games are immensely important, not only to gain steam heading into the conference tournament, but also because USF and Santa Clara are right around Gonzaga in the conference standings.  Another slip up for Gonzaga could possibly mean a Saturday night game in Las Vegas rather a cushy bye to the semifinals.  Sweep the Broncos and the Dons and Gonzaga is in the drivers seat for another tournament championship showdown versus Saint Mary's.  Santa Clara, in particular, will not be phased heading into Thursday night's game in Spokane.  After defeating Gonzaga by 14 points earlier in the season, the Broncos will be a very confident ball club.

more after the jump...

Admittedly, I didn't get to see much of the Pepperdine game.  Taking a look at the box score and seeing the Rob and Steven combined to go 2-10 from the field tells me right away that it was a game where not much can be learned.  One thing that is obvious, however, is that Marquise Carter is currently Mark Few's flavor of the month.  Carter played 37 minutes while Mangisto Arop and Mathis Keita registered DNP's (Coaches' Decision).  Raise your hand if you had Manny being a healthy scratch in two games this season.  Marquise, on the other hand, has registered twenty or more minutes in  five of the past six games and he appears to have pretty solid control over the off-guard position.  Again, show of hands for those that had Carter playing in tandem with Meech and Stockton on a regular basis.

The one thing that could make the next week or so very, very long is the most basic aspect of the game: putting the ball in the basket.  Over the last three ball games, Gonzaga is shooting a frigid 38% from the floor.  The three game drop off is hard to explain but to put it in perspective, Gonzaga hadn't shot below 40% (before Memphis) since the Xavier game in late December.  The dropoff is pretty heavily correlated to the play of Steven Gray and Robert Sacre (duh).  Rob has only made five, count em, five field goals over the past three games while Steven is burning the nets up with his 28% from the floor over the same stretch.  Some scary, scary stats over the past three games, ladies in gentlemen.  Gonzaga was able to sneak past Pepperdine and LMU but USF and Santa Clara seem to have enough to pull off an upset, even at the MAC.

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