For the first time ever, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Oakland Golden Grizzlies will face each other on Sunday night.
The Zags are coming off a nearly one-week layoff, but they deserved it after two games in three days to open the season. The second of those games, a total drubbing to the Colorado St. Rams, had the team looking good and already spouting that horrible phrase - "If we play like that we can compete with anyone."
There weren't too many negative takeaways from the game against the Rams. Gary Bell launched eight three pointers to bury Colorado State early on. The Zags had an effective field-goal percentage of close to 70 percent. Przemek Karnowski avoided the dumb fouls and finished with eight points and 10 rebounds. Gerard Coleman showed what he was capable of, finishing the game with 16 points in 21 minutes. It was a team effort and showed the Zags abilities to potentially run the floor against anyone.
Meet the opponent
Oakland Golden Grizzlies, 0-3, 167 Kenpom, 259 RPI
They've only mustered around 60 points a game, and were thoroughly overmatched in games against the Tar Heels and the Bruins, losing by 23 and 31 respectively. Against Cal, Oakland turned a slight corner. They only lost by four points, and the Bears trailed leading into the waning minutes before pulling out the win.
Oakland has a lot on its mind at the moment too. Duke Mondy and Dante Williams are suspended indefinitely after being arrested with charges of sexual assault while on the road against UCLA. Neither player has been charged with a crime, but coach Greg Kampe suspended them anyway for violating team conduct standards.
The loss of Mondy hurts Oakland quite a bit. Mondy played his first two years of college ball at Providence. He is one of the premier defensive specialists in the nation. He was first in the Big East in steals as a sophomore and led the nation in steals per game last season, averaging 3.0.
Without Mondy in the backcourt, even more pressure is on senior guard Travis Bader. He stepped up against the Bears, playing the entire 40 minutes and finishing with 21 points. Bader is one of the most prolific three-point shooters over the past four years and is someone the Zags will have to lock down. Bader attempts over 11 three-pointers a game this year, shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. He is 18th all-time in the NCAA with 371 career three-pointers and led the nation in three-pointers made last season.
What to watch for
If Mondy were playing, I would say the Zags need to look out for Mondy. It sounds like he is still out, so instead I'll say the Zags need to look out for Bader. Bader is exactly the kind of player that can burn the Bulldogs, and if he has a career game Oakland might be able to hang around more than they have any business doing. I expect a combination of Bell and Coleman to be on him, and it will be interesting to see how the perimeter defense is coming along.
It was nice to see Bell and Coleman have their big games last Monday. Now it is Kevin Pangos turn. He is averaging 13.5 points through the first two games and the team hasn't needed him to take it over. But his shot percentage is down across the board. He is shooting 39 percent from the floor and just 26 percent from three-point land. He is averaging 7.5 three-point attempts through the first two games, and if he is going to throw up that many attempts we need to see a better rate of return.
It has only been two games, but it will be interesting to see what the line-up is. David Stockton has started so far, and I'm not sure it is in the best interests of everyone to open the game with him there. So far it is has worked, but the Zags haven't been tested yet. Stockton is averaging nearly 30 minutes a game through the first two games -- tops on the team. It would be nice to see some of those minutes going towards more face time for Kyle Dranginis, Drew Barham and Coleman.