There is only one story on Thursday night at 7 p.m. If Gary Bell is back in the lineup -- there is your narrative for the evening. If he isn't, well, I guess we can always fall back on the Billy Grier and Mark Few connection.
The Bulldogs are coming off of middling results last week, but they took care of business after the disappointing loss to Portland early in the month. Gonzaga took care of business against Pepperdine but had a bit more of a struggle against Loyola Marymount. Hopefully, returning home and the addition of GBJ will get whatever kinks are out of the season because BYU is charging into Spokane later this week as red hot as they've been all season.
Against LMU, the Zags went with an easy game plan -- Sam Dower as much as possible. He took approximately 100 percent of the team's shots in the first half (maybe a bit less than 100) and finished with 28 points. That total could've been well into the 30s if he hadn't missed multiple point-blank put backs.
With Bell back, that should take some pressure off of Kevin Pangos. Pangos has been in a slump as of late, shooting just 28.5 percent from the floor over the past three games. He was especially brutal against LMU, finishing with just three points and missing every three point shot he took for the first time all season.
Meet the opponent
San Diego Toreros (11-9), Kenpom #150, RPI #178
San Diego looks to be close to turning it around on paper, but as we all know paper means absolutely nothing in the college game. The Toreros might be one of the best defensively minded teams in the WCC and they are full of plenty of capable scorers. Just one, maybe two things are missing, and the team hasn't turned the corner yet. They are close though.
The backcourt fuels the San Diego attack by a healthy margin. Guards Johnny Dee and Duda Sanadze supply a good portion of the offense and between the two of them, they will have a hand in the offensive set at least half the time. Dee averages 16.5 points and Sanadze adds 13.3. Throw in Dennis Kramer and Christopher Anderson each over double-digits in points and that is a healthy amount of scoring.
It is a steep drop off after those four though, and that is the problem. The fifth highest scorer is Jito Kok at 4.6 points per game. That is where the defense comes in. San Diego allows 64.2 points per game, good for 44th in the nation. They defend against the three point well, with teams shooting just 31 percent from beyond the arc. The San Diego way is to keep it close and hope for a win. San Diego has played eight games this season decided by four or fewer points, going 3-5.
What to watch out for
GBJ of course! Then again, if he doesn't play, Kevin Pangos will be pretty important in this game. Three games is hardly a mini slump, but without Bell in the lineup, if Pangos is flat from the outside there goes the perimeter game for the most part. Drew Barham is always a threat but he often needs to find his spot in the corner and lacks the ability to pull up at a whim and drain the tree like Pangos.
San Diego will also present one of the better defensive matchups to manage Przemek Karnowski. Kramer is a mature 6'11 player and 6'9 backup Kok has a solid eye for the block. Karnowski needs to be effective for Mark Few to keep him on the floor, because the San Diego guards are good at cutting to the hoop. When they do, they make their free throws most of the time. Karnowski is the most fearsome presence in the paint and just his shadow gives people second thoughts about entering his lair.
If GBJ plays, the rotation will be the interesting thing to watch -- to a certain extent. I can't imagine that if Bell is medically cleared he will be logging 30 minutes next on Thursday. This is pretty much the last chance for Barham, David Stockton, Gerard Coleman and Angel Nunez to have an extended look at the floor. Kyle Dranginis took his opportunity and ran with it, so it is up to those four. The person with the best game today will go a long way for future minutes.