There wasn't a lot to complain about the Gonzaga Bulldogs 2014-15 schedule when it was released. Games against SMU, Memphis, UCLA and Arizona all looked extra tantalizing and it appeared the Bulldogs were back on track for their traditional non-conference onslaught.
But then SMU lost a major prospect. UCLA took a massive nose-dive. The Bulldogs lost to Arizona in overtime, and this year, for whatever reason, Memphis isn't Memphis.
That is a bit unfortunate, but that is also how it is. It would have been nice to draw a tough Memphis squad as a solid gauge for how this Gonzaga team is playing, but we'll now have to wait until March to try and figure that out.
The Tigers, despite a pretty normal recruiting class from Josh Pastner, just can't get it together this year. Memphis has lost every game worth anything this year, outside of a home win over Cincinnati. As of right now, the Tigers aren't a tournament team, so this game doesn't provide too much allure for the Bulldogs. If they win, great. If they lose, that'll be a nasty black eye on the schedule.
Meet the opponent
Memphis Tigers, 13-7, KenPom #89
The major issue for the Tigers is that there was no way they could replace their departing senior class from last season. Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin are both good players, but the offensive potential of Memphis has fallen dramatically this season.
The Tigers are a pretty mediocre shooting team across the board. They have an effective field-goal percentage of 49.8, which ranks No. 125 in the nation. They struggle from the free-throw line, shooting 67.3 percent collectively as a team. Every member of the squad struggles with ball control, so no surprise, the offense struggles overall.
That isn't to say this Tigers squad is terribly down and out. The defense is rock solid. Sophomore forward Austin Nichols has developed into one of the better shot blockers in the nation and averages 3.2 per game. As a squad, Memphis' 141 blocks are good for fourth in the nation. Interior defense is hardly the forte, however. Memphis holds opponents to a sad 28.7 percent from beyond the arc.
The four factors
All stats courtesy of Ken Pomeroy
|eFG%||58.4 (3)||48.9 (125)|
|TO%||16.1 (26)||22.1 (311)|
|OR%||36.2 (36)||37.6 (19)|
|FTR||35.5 (218)||35.9 (209)|
What to watch out for
Keep track of Trahson Burrell.
The freshman forward made a name for himself as the future of the Memphis offense earlier in the season. He has been in a bit of a rut as of late. If he hops out of that rut, he'll do it in an efficient manner. He is one of the better offensive rebounders in the AAC and one of the more efficient players in the country. He is having a rough go around his freshman year, but he will be a fantastic player down the line.
Keep shooting the three.
Memphis is going to make it hard to get open from deep, but that doesn't mean Gonzaga should be discouraged. Kevin Pangos, when at home, is one of the best catch and shoot guards in the country. The Zags need to keep Memphis honest on the defensive end, because if the Tigers are completely able to shut down the outside shot, they'll have no problem defending the interior.
Don't get frustrated by Nichols.
Nichols stands at 6'8 and weighs 228 pounds. He is a mobile guy and he is going to get his blocks. He registered six against Wichita State to open the season and swatted eight shots from Oral Roberts this year. A blocked shot is pretty demoralizing, but they are going to come in this game. That doesn't mean that Gonzaga can get bullied out of attacking the hoop. The Bulldogs still have the height advantage, and they need to use it.
Time: 7 p.m.