The hype on Mark Few's Bulldogs has been growing steadily all season long but Saturday night will be their biggest test yet...
After an exhilarating win against Washington State in Pullman, Gonzaga doesn't have a whole lot of time to rest before their next big test. The good news is that this upcoming test does not call for any travel. Unlike previous years where the Zags had to pack travel bags that would last them three weeks in December, this year Mark Few sees his toughest challengers coming to Spokane. Illinois will be the first December guest for the Bulldogs and many view this game as hands down the best matchup of the weekend. The Bulldogs and Illini enter unbeaten and are both firmly in the top 15. While both programs have solid wins in early season play, a win on Saturday would formally announce their presence to the rest of the basketball world.
A quick word on Saturday's matchup
Reading through the abundance of article outlining this matchup, it has become pretty clear that many are sleeping on Illinois. Under new head coach John Groce, Illinois has been very impressive this season but there is little doubt this will be their toughest test yet. On the flip side, the hype couldn't be greater for Gonzaga. Each article in some fashion claims this is without a doubt Mark Few's best team. Now that we have seen the Zags win a tight game against a team playing well over their heads in Washington State, you have to believe confidence in the locker room is at an all time high. The key will be taking that next step and making the final tweaks on their way to being elite. Free throws will be the biggest 'tweak' for the Zags. Poor free throw shooting almost buried the Bulldogs against WSU and it remains to be seen if this team can improve on that. If they can't, they will almost assuredly drop a tight contest in December due to poor performance from the charity stripe.
Gonzaga - Illinois Press
Weekend Watch: Illinois-Gonzaga preview - College Basketball Nation Blog - ESPN
ESPN's Jay Bilas breaks down the game of the weekend which, in this case, features the Bulldogs and the Illini. Jay picks the Bulldogs in a close contest and says that Kelly Olynyk is the player to watch for Mark Few's squad.
Tupper: No. 10 Gonzaga’s talent, depth to challenge Illini
Article features some very flattering quotes from Illini head coach John Groce including: “The word that comes to mind is well-rounded,” Groce said in describing Gonzaga. “I watch them and I just don’t know if they have any weakness. They have depth, skill, athleticism, they play hard, they play together and from a statistical perspective they’re the second best team in the country when you compile all the numbers offensively and defensively.”
Weekend Look Ahead: Can Illinois move to 10-0 with a win at Gonzaga? - CBSSports.com
CBS' Gary Parrish will be in attendance at The Kennel for the only Top 25 matchup of the weekend.
Top 5: The best upcoming college hoops games | Detroit Free Press | freep.com
Nice outline of some of the top upcoming college basketball games from the Detroit Free Press. It seems more and more like folks are expecting Illinois to come back to reality after a very solid start but make no mistake that this is a dangerous team.
Win against Gonzaga would bring respect | IlliniHQ.com
Even though they are unbeaten on the year, popular sentiment is that Illinois won't really challenge for the Big Ten crown. In this article, the Illinois players claim they enjoy flying under the radar but a win over the Bulldogs would put them on the national map.
Gonzaga’s size gives them advantage over Illinois in clash of unbeatens - The Daily Illini
The paths Illinois and Gonzaga have traveled this season are nearly identical.
Weekend Preview: Gonzaga and Illinois highlight Saturday’s action | CollegeBasketballTalk
NBC Sports also tabs the Bulldogs - Illini matchup as the game of the weekend.