After surviving not only the Santa Clara Broncos team, but also their slightly intoxicated fans, the Gonzaga Bulldogs head to San Diego knowing that a win will clinch an undefeated regular season in the WCC. While many fans across the nation scoff at what is considered to be a lackluster conference, it's important to realize that only Memphis and Gonzaga are currently undefeated in conference play. This game offers Gonzaga a rare and unique opportunity to close out a special conference season, and will also provide the Zags with an opportunity to continue and climb the polls as the teams in front of them lose. In just the last few days, Clemson, Arizona St., Marquette, and Purdue have all lost, and there will certainly be more upsets over the next two weeks. If GU can take care of business, there is a legitimate chance at a top 15 or even top 10 finish.
You have to feel sorry for what Billy Grier has dealt with this season. When the season started, Grier had a terrific senior leader in Brandon Johnson who happened to be one of the best talents in the conference, as well as a a rising star in Trumaine Johnson. However, when the Zags and Toreros meet tomorrow, both will be missing. Brandon Johnson suffered a season-ending injury against San Diego St. earlier this season, while Trumaine Johnson was recently kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons. It's truly a credit to Billy Grier that this team has remained competitive, as many team would not be able to survive the loss of two key contributors.
Despite the injuries and suspensions throughout the season, the one player that has been the closest thing to consistent is Gyno Pomare. The 6'8 senior has never developed into quite the player that it seems he could be, but he has continued to be steady for the Toreros. Pomare is averaging 14 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and he is certainly the key to any success the Toreros hope to have as the season winds down.
With both Brandon and Trumaine Johnson gone, much of the scoring load has fallen on De'Jon Jackson. Many people will remember Jackson as the player who hit the game winning shot against UConn in the NCAA Tournament, and he has continued to develop this season when healthy. Although he is averaging only 8.3 points, Jackson is arguably the top guard option for USD, and you can expect to see his scoring continue to rise as he gets more comfortable being a key player in the offense.
Because of the familiarity between Billy Grier and Gonzaga, each game between these teams is difficult to watch. It's clear that USD knows what Gonzaga is going to run even before the Zags do. I expect this to be a slow paced and difficult to watch basketball game. Despite this, I still believe that the consistency and talent of the Zags will pull through in the end, and Gonzaga will emerge with a 71-50 victory.