Ok gang. That Memphis loss was a punch to the gut, sure. But it was hardly the end-all, throw our blackened souls into the pits of Mt. Doom to end this college basketball season. It hurt, but we will rise above it.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs sit at 27-4. They are nicely perched on top of the WCC with an 11-1 record. Each time this team has had any sort of adversity in front of it, they have responded nicely. Remember the first litmus test against Dayton? The Zags rolled through the rest of the non-conference slate with authority, including good wins over Arkansas, New Mexico State and West Virginia. Remember the loss to Kansas State and the injury to Gary Bell and Sam Dower? The Zags put together four very solid wins with half of their starting lineup missing. Remember the loss to Portland (I don't -- it is forever blacked out of my memory)? The Zags took care of business, as ugly as possible, but they took care of it.
It is true, the Memphis game would have been the feather in the cap. Without it, the Bulldogs are forever resigned to appear on every single Bubble Watch column by all publications everywhere for the rest of the year. Honestly though, I've always felt that this team, and all Gonzaga teams, play better with a chip on their shoulder. The Bulldogs have a huge chip right now, and all we can do is take this one game at a time straight through the WCC Championship.
Sorry for the locker room pep talk. Game time is at 6 p.m. PT with the game on ROOT Sports or KHQ. Let's get to the rest of this post.
Meet the opponent
Pepperdine Waves (14-11), KenPom #132, RPI #132 (hey look at that!)
The last time Gonzaga played Pepperdine it was pretty much a laugher. Gonzaga went into halftime with a 39-21 lead and Ryan Edwards even saw nine minutes, which means you know the score was lopsided. Pepperdine isn't that bad, however. They play some solid defense, can grind out wins when they need to and narrowly lost to Saint Mary's in overtime.
Sophomore Stacy Davis is the player to shut down. He is averaging 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in a campaign to land himself on the first team all-WCC. In the backcourt, they have one of the better freshman guards in the league with Jeremy Major. Major is undersized, standing at 5'10, but he is quick to the hoop and has a better eye for passes. His 4.4 assists per game are sixth in the WCC.
Pepperdine started out hot, but then their record reflects more of what the team is. They are a middling team in the WCC, doing some things like scoring halfway decently. If you compare their team stats to the conference, they hardly stand out in anything, but they also aren't extremely deficient in any aspect either. The Waves are a well rounded team with nothing to lose.
What to watch out for
With Davis taking a lot of the focus for Pepperdine, it is important to make sure that he has to struggle for those points. Przemek Karnowski's defense has come along so far this game, that I think he will really make Davis work for it. Between Davis and his fellow forward Brendan Lane, the Waves have two solid forwards that will make Karnowski and Sam Dower work on the defensive end. Karnowski will work, Dower will need to work.
The Gonzaga backcourt needs to do its thing. Kevin Pangos finally needs to start scoring buckets or figure out another way to contribute. I have a feeling that David Stockton might end up Major at the point guard position, and this will be an interesting matchup. Stockton, for all the pleas of benching he receives from all over, is a tenacious defender and leads the team in steals by a huge margin. Major is a freshman, and as such, is subject to freshman jitters. He averages 2.2 turnovers per game, but has plenty of games where it is more than that. Expect Stockton to apply heavy pressure to Major in an attempt to offense Pepperdine's offensive flow.
The first game between the two teams isn't a good indicator for anything. Pepperdine couldn't buy a shot to save their life, shooting just 32 percent from the field. Chances are, they won't play that poorly again. I don't expect the Zags to jump out to a massive early lead, and honestly, I'm not really sure I want them to. Gonzaga has been absolutely wretched in protected large leads this year, and the Memphis game was the latest example. In a weird way, I'd almost feel more comfortable going into this game leading by five at half over leading by 20.
- Memphis Loss Leaves Gonzaga With Little Margin For Error
- WCC Weekly Wrap: BYU starts to get offensively charged up again
- Gonzaga Fails To Finish, Falls To Memphis 60-54
- Gonzaga vs. Memphis 2014 game preview: The big statement game is here
- Friday Morning News & Notes: Kyle Wiltjer Undergoing The Olynyk Experience