The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the older sibling in this situation. They've been talking the talk, walking the walk and being an all-around bully to those around them. Dayton, the middle sibling, had enough of this attitude and deliberate tripped up the unknowing Bulldogs, who crashed to the ground, face first, tears streaming down their face and wondering what had happened. The Bulldogs, unaware that it was the Flyers who tripped them, immediately went and took their frustrations out on the first thing they saw, Chaminade, the baby of the family.
After falling 84-79 against Dayton on Monday to cut those Maui Invitational Championship dreams woefully short, the Bulldogs rebounded from the first loss of the season by pounding Chaminade into submission. They dunked their head in the toilet, then threw them in the trash can and then threw them in the locker -- just for good measure. Seven Zags scored in double figures in the 113-81 win with Sam Dower and a resurgent Gerard Coleman leading the way.
It was nice to see, but Chaminade is a Division-II school. Losing wasn't an option. Offensively, the Zags rebounded from the Dayton gut punch rather nicely. Defensively, well....meh.......uh......
Meet the opponent
Arkansas Razorbacks (4-1), Kenpom 55, RPI 14
All Gonzaga games against big conference opponents are tests, but this will also be an interesting test because of the style of game Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson to employ. Anderson it calls it the "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" and it takes its queues from Nolan Richardson's "40 Minutes of Hell" defensive system. It employs the full court press, man-to-man schemes and a variety of ball traps to absolutely disrupt everything. Then, when Arkansas has the ball in their hands, they run like hell.
It is a tiring system for sure, so the Razorbacks have to go to a deep bench to pull it off. They have 11 players averaging at least ten minutes, and the two keys to the cog are Michael Qualls and Alandise Harris. Qualls leads the team with 16 points a game, and Harris, a Houston transfer, chips in 15.6. The Razorbacks press quickly for fastbreak points and then settle for good looks. As a team they shoot 50 percent from two-point range and 41 percent from beyond the arc.
What to watch out for
Harris will be an absolute beast for Gonzaga to defend, and Gary Bell will need to be on top of his game to do so. Harris is a big guard, standing 6'6 and outweighs Bell by close to 20 pounds. He doesn't take many outside shots at all, but he will bully the ball inside. From three-point land, there are pretty much two options Arkansas will kick it to: Qualls and Anthlon Bell. Bell is 14-for-33 on the season and hit four in the opening round of the invitational to defeat Cal.
This will be a high scoring affair, and Gonzaga will have to keep their heads on straight to stay in it. Arkansas' system aims to disrupt the offense with turnovers, and when they do it is hard to keep up when the race starts. The Zags are averaging just a shade over 10 turnovers a game, but many of those are self-inflicted -- either errant passes or trying to force something when no one is there. Arkansas will make us turn the ball over, so don't give them any freebies.
Arkansas isn't a big rebounding team. Apparently Gonzaga isn't either as we found out in this tournament. With the size in the frontcourt, Przemek Karnowski and Sam Dower need to do a better job of pulling in offensive rebounds. We average 8.5 offensive rebounds a game, good for 318th in the country. When the threes aren't falling, and when we don't give ourselves any second chances, games like Dayton will happen more often.
Most importantly in this game, Gonzaga cannot get lulled into the Hawaiian dreams of a big lead. Chaminade made a few spurts to make it a reasonable score, and the Bulldogs, of course, led Dayton by as many as 16 at one point in the game. Out of all the teams in the nation that can turn it around quickly, Arkansas might be at the top. The final score of the Razorbacks win over Minnesota was 87-73. The score at halftime of that game was 40-35, with Minnesota in the lead.
And in case you haven't already, head over to hear (or read) what Scottie Bordelon of Arkansas Fight had to say about his team.