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Chance to break away from the pack: Zags take on USD

Like many of you out there in Gonzaga nation, I'm still basking in the impressive win that the Zags were able to pull off against St. Mary's. Not only were we treated to a huge win that pretty much sets up this conference for our taking, but fans were treated to some absolutely outstanding efforts from Elias Harris and Steven Gray. As Zach B can attest, I have been all over the Elias bandwagon since it was revealed he had committed. However, never in my wildest dreams did I think he would emerge as one of the top 10 players in the country, which he is.

As blasphemous as this may sound with some of the guys that have been through the program, Harris' performance last night was arguably the greatest combination of athleticism, strength, and skill that I have ever seen from a player in a Gonzaga uniform. Lost in the great play of Harris was the passionate and emotional performance from Steven. I know I have often been frustrated by the inconsistency that tends to haunt Steven, but when he plays like he did last night, there are not many better shooting guards in the country. What made me so excited about watching Steven play was the emotion and aggressiveness that he showed from opening tip until the final buzzer sounded. Lets hope that this is the Gray we see the rest of the season, as it could lead to a truly special season.

While USD has been inconsistent and fairly disappointing over the course of this season, all things are thrown out the window because of the relationship with Billy Grier and this program. Grier knows what plays Gonzaga will run and when they will run them. In order to beat a team that knows you this well, the Zags must execute their sets at an extraordinarily high level, and also just make sure that their talent level and athleticism advantage is exploited over the course of 40 minutes. 

I know this will likely sound like a broken-record, but once again this is a team that has absolutely no answer for the inside tandem of Harris and Sacre. Frankly, there are few, if any teams, that have the ability to match up with that inside tandem, and when Harris is playing this impressive and aggressive, the WCC can't compete or slow him down. USD gets the majority of its points from the back court combo of Brandon Johnson and De'Jon Jackson. They are the only two guys averaging in double-figures, and both are volume shooters who can be very difficult to match up with when they get on a hot streak. However, with the ability of Meech and Gray to defend in the back court, I don't see this being a game where either guy gets enough good looks to get on a hot streak.

Assuming that Gonzaga stays out of foul trouble and doesn't get complacent or overly-confident heading into the game, there is truly no excuse for this to be much of a match up. Gonzaga has already faced the two most experienced teams in this conference, and the Toreros aren't in the same league as either Portland or St. Mary's. Much to the delight of Gonzaga fans, this team will open up a two-game lead on either Portland or St. Mary's, since those two teams match up on Saturday night. As for my prediction, behind a big game from Rob Sacre, the Zags should coast to the 70-51 win.