USA TODAY Sports
After a very successful nonconference slate, Gonzaga opens up WCC play on the road against Pepperdine...
And, just like that, conference play has arrived. As usual, the bulk of the nonconference slate absolutely flew by and, while the Zags still have one huge nonconference game left against Butler, their focus has shifted to taking on their West Coast Conference rivals. First up are the 8-5 Pepperdine Waves. Under second year head coach Marty Wilson, Pepperdine enters the contest as one of the top defenses in the conference. They are allowing only 63 points per game so far this season but, like in years past, continue to struggle to do enough to win ball games. Their last time out on the court was against Fresno Pacific and they needed a last second layup to defeat the Division II opponent.
While Pepperdine is clearly the outmatched team in this one but it does not mean the Bulldogs can overlook the Waves. With senior guard Lorne Jackson and freshman forward Stacy Davis, Pepperdine has enough to string together an upset if everything lines up right. Jackson is averaging 15 points per game this season for Pepperdine while Davis averages about 11 points per game. The issue for Pepperdine, which should be a pretty consistent theme throughout WCC play is that they are severely undersized in comparison to Gonzaga. Pepperdine's frontcourt consists of Davis and fellow freshman Jett Raines. Both Davis and Raines are in the 6'6''-6'7'' raange and will have a hard time matching up with Harris, Olynyk, Dower, and Karnowski.
For the Bulldogs, this will hopefully be a game largely about getting some of their depth some minutes. In particular, it would be great to see freshmen Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Dranginis log some solid minutes. Both have showed flashes, Karnowski especially, but need to provide consistent efforts if this team is going to fulfill their potential in March. With Gary Bell's recent knee injury, Dranginis should see plenty of time at the shooting guard position and he hopefully uses that time being more aggressive than we have seen recently. For Karnowski, his size should put him at a huge advantage in this one and I expect him to have a big weekend in California.
At the end of the day, it should come as little surprise that the pick here is Gonzaga and it should be by a pretty wide margin. With Gonzaga's guards playing at a very high level and the size advantage this team has, the Bulldogs should have this thing wrapped up by halftime. Look for Karnowski, Olynyk, and crew to have nights as the Zags run away from the Waves in Malibu.