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On the horizon: Zags get a break before taking on Duke

Davidson gave Gonzaga a run for their money on Saturday evening but the Wildcats did not have enough to take down the Bouldin-less Bulldogs. The Battle in Seattle was set up by Gonzaga to not only bring good college basketball to the city of Seattle but to also attract big name programs to play the Zags in the Pac-NW. While Davidson isn't much these days without Stephen Curry, you really couldn't have picked a better team for Gonzaga to play without their senior leader Matt Bouldin. As we said in our game recap, Gonzaga was able to physically impose their will on Davidson for 40 minutes and put up 100+ points in Seattle. Robert Sacre and Elias Harris fought, scrapped, and dominated the interior against Davidson while Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson ruled the perimeter. The silver lining of the whole Matt Bouldin incident may have been the way these four played. There's no doubt that they will have to consistently "bring it" if Gonzaga is going to finish out Decmeber the way we are all expecting them to. They should all be riding high after playing Davidson and I expect them to have a great week of practice before heading off to New York. With that, here are a few things to get your week off to a good start...

It's Duke week...

For the first time as a blogger I kind of feel like I'm covering a college football team. November's early season tournament madness is well behind us and were at a bit of a lull in the schedule. Gonzaga will only have two games in the next two weeks. Duke on Saturday and then Eastern Washington all the way on December 28th in the comfy confines of the MAC. Ever since the Duke game at Madison Square Garden was confirmed, Gonzaga fans have had their eyes on the 19th. When you combined one of America's most storied athletic programs with America's most fabled sports arena, there is no need for embellishment. Gonzaga will head into the game an 8-2 ball club and assuming Duke takes care of Gardner-Webb on Tuesday, they'll be 8-1. It will undoubtedly be a game most of the nation will have their eyes on. Gonzaga hasn't played in the Garden since the 2006-07 season when they played three games in the basketball mecca. They played Duke in December and lost a tightly contested game to the Blue Devils but the game most Gonzaga fans like to remember is the preseason NIT when Gonzaga upset North Carolina before being upset by Butler. That game was the official coming out party for big man Josh Heytvelt who absolutely shut down Tyler Hansbrough and established himself as a premier player in the country. I'm assuming there are a couple current Gonzaga big men that wouldn't mind having their official coming out part on basketball's biggest stage come Saturday

continue reading after the poll and jump...

Mark Few made the most of his trip to Seattle...

For big-time college basketball coaches, there really is no downtime. Even after you coaching a high-scoring, up-tempo game like the one Gonzaga played in Saturday, it wasn't as though Mark Few could go back to the hotel and relax. Nope, instead the Gonzaga head man went out to the Kentridge-Federal Way game that tipped at 7:30 PM to get another glimpse at Kentridge's Gary Bell Jr. To be quite honest, this is exactly how I was hoping Coach would spend his time in Seattle. Bell Jr. is a smooth scoring guard from the Seattle area that blew up over the summer during the AAU circuit and is poised for an enormous junior season. Gary holds offers from the likes of Gonzaga, Washington, and Cal. He was quoted as saying the two Pac-10 schools were his leaders right now but it is early yet in the 2011 recruiting cycle. The Chargers of Kentridge lost by six points to Federal Way but Gary put up 18 of Kentridge's 52 points in the losing effort.

Projecting this week's rakings...

The five teams ahead of Gonzaga in last week's AP Poll lost this past week meaning that we should be seeing some significant improvement to our position at some point mid-Monday. Wisconsin, Cincy, UNLV, Washington (sweet), and Texas A&M all lost meaning that I would expected Gonzaga to probably fall somewhere between the 16-17 range tomorrow. Gary Parrish of CBSSports recently weighed in and put the Zags at 15 while Jeff Goodman slated Mark Few's club as the 17th best team in the nation at this point. If Gonzaga could have stole a win from Wake Forest, this Duke game coming up could have solidified Gonzaga as a top 10 team (assuming a positive result).

Bol Kong (and SSF) getting some love

The coolest part about the whole ESPN Insider set up is the Rumors section of the website. For every sport, there is a rumors page that is basically news before it really blows up. Smartly, ESPN's editors have made a conscious effort to stalk the blogosphere to get the pulse of a fan base so that they can get the inside dig quickly. We've been linked a couple of times now by this rumors page including today in a little blurb about Bol Kong:

We wrote last Friday that Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin should be able to play against Davidson despite a suspected concussion. Three hours from the Battle of Seattle's tipoff, coach Mark Few learned that Bouldin would not play or even dress for the game.

Even without Bouldin, the 'Zags were able to pull out the win and in the senior guard's absence, Bulldog fans were able to see first extensive action from heralded frosh Bol Kong. Against Augustana, Kong scored 19 points in only 10 minutes. In place of Bouldin against Davidson, Kong scored 9 points in 15 minutes of action, making one of two threes to increase his team-leading 3-point percentage to 60 percent.

While Bouldin should return, Kong's solid play should earn him more minutes and confidence from coach Mark Few. The administrators of The Slipper Still Fits (a Gonzaga men's basketball site) are definitely enthused by the freshman's play: "When Kong has the ball in his hands on offense, I have total confidence that good things will happen ... He's so deceptively fast and strong on the dribble that there aren't many players that match up well with him."

Bol seems to ideally fit ESPN's Rumors section because this kid is about to explode. I'm just waiting for that game where he comes in early in the first half and takes over. All the look up and Bol's got twenty. That's exactly how I expect it to go and I've ran it through in my mind a number of times. I'll be curious to see if Bol has gained enough respect where Coach K recognizes when he is on the court and makes the necessary adjustment. For the Blue Devils, I'm not sure who that would be. Singler can take care of his size but I like Kong on the drive in that situation. If he is not accounted for, I would expect Bol to make some big shots against Duke like he has done all season.

With guys like Bol, Elias, Manny, and Kelly I rest at ease because they have yet to be phased by a situation. Their international experience has made them excellent competitors that have yet to show any real sign of getting caught up in the moment. Elias' ejection in the Wake Forest game was more of a hard foul in my book where he just got a bit overzealous. I exepct this solid play to continue from all four of these players as Duke waits in the wings.