Gonzaga vs. LMU 2014 game preview: California road trip continues

Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get a win streak going!

I'll skip the usual random spat of words detailing how the team played in the last game because I didn't watch it. All I can say is that Pepperdine hung around for the first few minutes, Gonzaga showed them what it means to be on top of the WCC and sent the Waves home as humbly as possible for the streets of Malibu.

Meet the opponent

Loyola Marymount Lions (9-9), Kenpom #157, RPI #149

That should read less "Meet the opponent" and just say meet Anthony Ireland. Ireland is the heart and soul of the LMU Lions and is one of the top-10 players in the WCC. I would even go so far as to place him in the category of top guards in the conference. He is averaging 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He does it all while standing at 5'10 with platform heels and weighing 170 pounds sopping wet.

You can't count out Ireland in any game. He can explode. He has dropped 34 points already this year and has scored 25 or more points 16 times in his collegiate career. He does that with a relentless drive to the basketball hoop. Ireland is a cutter. He isn't a threat for really shooting the ball (just 28 percent from three point land this season) and he strives to get a majority of his points at the line. This year, he has made 100 free throws and 109 field goals.

In previous years, Ireland didn't have a whole lot of help. Freshman guard Evan Payne has surfaced pretty nicely as the two-guard. He stands at 6'2 and scores 13.6 points per game. He also buys into coach Max Good's aggressive policy for guards and charges for the hoop pretty often. Like Ireland, it is a good result. Both guards shoot above 80 percent from the line.

What to watch out for

First things off, the Bulldogs are going to have to stay smart with the fouls in this one. The Lions are one of the worse three point shooting teams in the nation. Respect the open shot, but don't be surprised to see a pump fake and a drive down low. Gonzaga holds an incredible size advantage over LMU, so that is something that needs to be exploited early and often. Considering the ability of the LMU guards to run the ball, I wouldn't be surprised to see Gonzaga try and slow it down a bit.

Gonzaga won't necessarily be able to keep up the pace if they try and run it constantly. Ireland averages a team high 34.9 minutes per game, but Good has faith in his team. He has 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game and has the legs to run a high-octane offense. The Bulldogs can, just in bursts, until Few opens up the rotation a bit more.

LMU plays some scrappy defense. They are generally forced to because they are outsized, but it only works to a certain extent. Teams average 76.7 points against LMU, placing their defense down in the swamps of the NCAA. With an offense as potent as Gonzaga's coming to town, this should be a game that the Lions have a hard time matching up against.

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