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Zags Face Huge Challenge in WCC Opener

Despite many fans lamenting how difficult of a nonconference slate Gonzaga faced, it certainly appears that WCC play will offer numerous challenges this season. St. Mary's appears to be at the stage where it simply reloads, while the Portland Pilots continue to be an excellent story under head coach Eric Reveno. It will be this surprising Portland team that Gonzaga faces tonight it was has the potential to be one of the more exciting WCC seasons in recent history.

There is no denying the fact that Gonzaga heads into this game with great momentum after impressive victories over Xavier, Oklahoma State and Wake Forest. Even more important is the improving health of both Elias Harris and Steven Gray. For the first time all season, we might get to see both of these guys healthy and comfortable in their roles following the six day break after the Wake Forest game. It will be interesting to see if this team is capable of some of the high expectations placed on it back in October.

I don't think there were many people outside of the Portland program that thought this team would be so good. I didn't think Jared Stahl was capable of becoming a legitimate No. 1 scoring option, but he has clearly embraced this role and has provided great leadership for this young team. What has been so impressive about the job that Reveno has done is how his players steadily improve while they are underclassmen. Guys who didn't play much as freshmen and sophomores, like junior guard Nemanja Mitrovic, have stepped in and filled a vacated role admirably. This is a mark of a great coach who knows how to build and improve a program, which is something that Reveno has proven to be more than capable of. 

The reason that Portland provides a tough matchup for the Zags is because of its ability to shoot the ball from the outside. However, the athleticism and defensive focus on the perimeter that Gonzaga has displayed during this winning streak has been outstanding. If Goodson, Gray and Keita can continue to be disruptive on the perimeter and make it difficult for teams to get open looks and into their offense, Gonzaga should be on its way to a successful WCC season. With the recent winning streak showing what this team is capable of, I expect the Zags to pull out the 77-64 win.