Gonzaga faces off against the same old San Diego Toreros, minus one same old thing. Ex-Gonzaga assistant coach Billy Grier is also now the ex-San Diego head coach.
Grier took the Toreros to a surprising NCAA Tournament appearance, where the Toreros did the WCC well and upset the No. 4 Connecticut Huskies. They eventually lost in the second round to Western Kentucky.
But after that, for Grier, things didn't go quite according to plan. San Diego lost quite a few games, and then reached this perennial point of playing nearly .500 ball. Last season, San Diego fired Grier and hired Lamont Smith.
Smith is a well-travelled assistant coach, spending time with both University of Washington and University of New Mexico. He also used to be a Torero, playing with San Diego from 1994-1999. Smith is one of the younger coaches in the conference at just 40-years-old.
Meet the opponent
San Diego, KenPom #300
OK, enough about the coach. What his players and who the Zags will actually play. There are definitely a few of these names you will recognize, but one of the most important pieces of the last four years of San Diego basketball is no longer there. Johnny Dee, one of the best shooters the WCC has ever seen, graduated and is now enjoying a fine career over in Poland.
There are still a few holdovers from last year's squad, notably seniors Jito Kok and Duda Sanadze. But the issue is that the Toreros just don't have many capable scorers on their squad, which, to be fair, is quite young. Sanadze leads the squad with 11.9 points per game, but is hampered by poor shooting at just 39.1 percent of his shots.
After him, Spokane native Brett Bailey averages 9.5 points per game, but is also hampered by poor shooting at just 38 percent from the floor. This is a recurring theme for the Toreros, and it manifests itself all over the floor. Marcus Harris has attempted 71 three-point attempts. Sanadze has hucked up 81 tries. Both are shooting less than 30 percent from three-point range.
The Toreros, as a team, are shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor. That qualifies as No. 343 in the nation. There are 351 Division I basketball schools in the nation. The Toreors, as a team, are shooting just 27.1 percent from beyond the arc, good for No. 346 in the nation. Again, there are 351 Division I basketball schools in the nation. The cherry on top is the team shoots just 62.5 percent from the free-throw line. San Diego struggles mightily to score.
What to watch out for
Who, pray tell, who outside of Wiltjer or Sabonis will actually step up for this team?
This has been the most frustrating part of the squad, in my opinion. Once again, the inconsistency of production from the rest of the squad manifested itself in a brutal fashion against BYU. With Sabonis rendered completely useless by foul trouble, the Zags were left thoroughly exposed, and BYU pounced in a vicious fashion. It is getting tired just wondering who is actually going to be able to score any points outside of our big two. Maybe that is the problem. Perhaps, we are expecting two much, and if either Sabonis or Wiltjer goes down with foul trouble we are destined to lose.
Either way, someone needs to, and they need to do it fast. This season is on the brink. If the ESPN Bubble Watch were to come out tomorrow, you would see the Zags firmly on it, and leaning on the wrong side of it. There is no more room for error with this team, and that means that we need to see some sort of consistent production from Eric McClellan, Josh Perkins, Kyle Dranginis, or Ryan Edwards.
How does this team respond?
San Diego might not be the best team to gauge this with, but Gonzaga needs to come out of the gates with fire and passion. The loss to BYU was a total gut-check. Gonzaga hasn't lost consecutive games at home to the same opponent since fire was discovered. This team has a tendency to let leads get away from them. They come out hot in the first half and look like the remnants of a campfire by the second half. This act will only go so far, and it looks like we are at the end of that rope. The Zags are at home, and the home fans deserve to witness a good 'ol fashion home game.