I have a secret to tell.
I don't really like it when Gonzaga blows out opponents.
I mean, sure, it is nice to see these highlight reel dunks and tacos galore, but in general, in all sports, I've never been the biggest fans of blowouts. I find them boring, I get disinterested, and I spend more of the game socializing with friends than actually watching whatever sport is on the tube.
That said, I don't necessarily like the past two conference games the WCC has served up. It is tiring to clench your colon for that long. And let's be honest, stress kills.
So the real question for us trying to survive this year is: what team are we going to get showing up? The answer is probably, sadly, both.
It isn't very hard to see why Gonzaga won both games against Pepperdine and LMU so easily. You can go back and watch the game tape, but just plugging in the stats will reveal that the Zags were insanely efficient on the offensive end in both of those games. In fact, they were as efficient as they have been all season. Against Pepperdine, the Zags averaged 1.58 points per possession, and against LMU, it was 1.43 points per possession. On the season, the Zags are averaging roughly 1.14 points per possession. That small difference, over the course of an entire game, adds up to quite a few free points.
In general, conference games are closer. Teams and coaches know each other and are that much more prepared. In general, road games are even more insane for the Zags. Opposing teams don't see national television too often. They don't get many "court storming" opportunities. Once a year, the big bad Zags roll into town and no one would love anything more than to send us to a humbling defeat. So that is why we see guys like Devin Watson exploding for 33 points in a game, hitting senseless shots and contested threes like he is Michael Jordan. In conference play, against the Zags, it will happen.
The most interesting thing note, and perhaps much of this also goes with the absence of Przemek Karnowski and how important his defense is for the Zags, but the Zags have been much worse defensively in conference play. In the non-conference, Zags held opponents to just 0.94 points per possession. In the WCC, conference opponents are averaging 1.20 points per possession. That is a big jump.
Also considering, again, that the Zags are averaging just 1.14 points per possession on the season, they'll need either the defense to clamp down to its non-conference way of life, or else many of our upcoming conference games, especially on the road, are going to give us all heartburn.