The dust has settled after Gonzaga's disappointing loss to Saint Mary's, and hopefully that means your blood pressure has as well. As is the case in college basketball, the grind keeps going, and the Bulldogs head to face the Pacific Tigers.
We all know what the pulse in Gonzaga land is, so let's check in with the pulse on Pacific. The mood in Stockton, well, it can't be the best, but it is getting better. After opening up a non-conference slate where they went 1-8 (woof), Pacific has strung together a halfway decent WCC effort, and is sitting at 4-4 in conference play. Granted, three of those four wins have been by a combined five points, so Pacific could be easily staring at a much worse record. But they aren't, and good for them.
Not good for them is the following home dosage the conference laid out for them. Jan. 23 at home against Gonzaga, and Jan. 30 at home against Saint Mary's. Sorry Pacific. That is a short end of a straw if there ever was one.
Meet the opponent
Pacific Tigers, 6-12, KenPom #236
A large majority of the Tigers' offense comes from three players, all guards. Sophomore Ray Bowles leads the team with 12 points, junior T.J. Wallace chips in 11.2 points, and senior Alec Kobre adds 11.8 points per game. It is a nice balance to have, as occasionally, one of the three players will explode for 20 points or so. The key word there is occasionally.
Wallace, for his sake, has scored in single digits his past four games, and is shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor and 30.6 percent from three point land. Bowles has been hot and cold in WCC play, dropping 16 points against Saint Mary's, but only scoring three against LMU. He did just score 19 points in 17 minutes against Portland, however. Kobre is slightly more consistent, large in part to his ability to hit the three pointer and just being an overall better shooter.
The main issue, is that after those three, the Tigers just don't score too much. There 71.6 points per game is good for No. 220 in the league, and it just doesn't work out in their favor that opponents average 71.8 points per game against them. Their three point defense leaves a lot to be desired, and the Tigers don't block shots or steal balls too often.
Essentially, this is a mediocre offense with a mediocre defense, and that is how you have a team sitting pretty at 4-4 in conference play.
What to watch out for
Keep track of Alec Kobre.
Out of anyone that is going to punish you on Pacific, it will be Kobre. He is shooting 55.4 percent from the floor, which is a pretty nutty number for a guard. If he steps in for a close jumper, he is nearly automatic, hitting 85 percent of his two-point attempts. From beyond the arc, he isn't half bad either at 46 percent. He is also a perfect 21-for-21 at the free throw line. All of this adds up to the second most efficient player in the NCAA according to Ken Pomeroy.
Expect to see some aggressive defense from the Gonzaga guards on Kobre. Lock up Kobre, and your entire Pacific offense comes to a grinding halt, what little offense there is actually.
The second half swoon.
Common sentiment after yet another one of our now classically served second-half collapses is that Gonzaga's rotation is so short and the players are getting gassed. I don't doubt that as a factor whatsoever. Just take a look at Wiltjer's minutes over the past month. 39 minutes against Santa Clara, 42 minutes against San Francisco, 31 minutes against Portland, 38 minutes against BYU, 27 minutes against San Diego and 36 against Saint Mary's. He is logging some serious minutes.
And the difference between a post player and a guard logging those minutes is that every time Wiltjer steps into the paint, he is getting an elbow in the back and a bruise forming somewhere. Big men take beatings that other guards don't, and unfortunately for Wiltjer and Sabonis, the Zags don't have the depth to take them out for long stretches of the game--especially considering how the rest of the offense struggles.
If the Zags go up big and early on this one, it would be nice to see Few really try and get some minutes for Ryan Edwards. Even if it is just 20 minutes of Edwards standing like a tree and not moving, that would be 20 minutes between Sabonis and Wiltjer to get much deserved rest.
Tipoff: 1:00 pm PT
Radio: KGA 1510 AM (Spokane), KIXI 880 AM (Seattle), KUIK AM 1360 (Portland)
Online: TheW.tv (in some markets)