The Gonzaga Bulldogs enter conference play sitting at 10-3. They are the No. 20 ranked team in the nation according to AP voters, and the No. 13 ranked team according to Ken Pomeroy. Considering everything they lost last season, that isn’t a bad spot to be in.
The Zags are limping a bit, if you will, into conference play. A month of uneven play finally culminated in a loss to the San Diego State Aztecs on the road. It has been a week since that game, and hopefully, the few days off is exactly what the Zags need to shake off the cobwebs.
The Pacific Tigers are currently riding a four-game losing streak. New head coach Damon Stoudamire deserves some credit here—he put the Tigers up against some tough teams. Most recently, Arizona State dropped 104 points on the Tigers, so not sure how good that is for the team morale. Either way, he’ll have to learn to weather the storm, because the WCC did Pacific no favors on scheduling. Three of their first four conference games are Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s.
Meet the opponent
Pacific Tigers, 5-8, KenPom #217
This year, one of the big issues in the conference is the disparity in the haves and the have nots. Like every year, that divide exists, but this year, it really exists. Five of the 10 WCC schools are sub-200 teams according to Ken Pomeroy. Pacific is at the upper end of that.
The Tigers are led by JUCO transfer Roberto Galliant, who averages 13.7 points per game. The junior played for South Plains College, the No. 1 ranked team in the NJCAA. He is an aggressive guard who isn’t afraid to pull up from three or drive to create his own shot.
Another potentially dangerous player to watch out for is 6’8 center/forward Jack Williams. Williams is second on the team in three-point attempts. He shoots them at a reasonable percentage, but his danger lies in stretching the defense. If the Zags are going to play man-to-man for much of the game, Williams, Larsen, or Tillie will have to watch out for One-Eyed Jack lingering away from the hoop.
The other big player to watch is Miles Reynolds, who played his way into the starting rotation against Arizona State. Reynolds transferred from Saint Louis University and averages over 10 points per game, rarely taking threes in the process. By all accounts, the Zags should be able to win this game handedly, but Pacific is rolling into a student-less stadium. That atmosphere is always different.
What to watch out for
Crash the defensive glass.
The Tigers are a surprising adept offensive rebounding team. Pacific is ranked No. 53 in the nation as a team, and sophomore guard Jahlil Tripp is a large part of that, ranked No. 81 individually. The Zags defense is pretty good at limiting opponents on the offensive glass, so the front line will need to be ready in this contest. Pacific’s offense overall isn’t that potent, and denying the extra possessions will make this game a lot easier in the long run.
The Josh Perkins factor.
Perkins was abysmal against San Diego State, there are few ways to cut it. He finished the game with more turnovers (six) than points (five). Quite recently, Mark Few benched Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie after a poor performance against North Dakota. Few doesn’t necessarily have that roster flexibility at point guard, but after the loss, the microscope is going to be on Perkins every move. He needs to establish that he can be a starting point guard on a top 25 squad. Changing the narrative is entirely up to him at this point.
Is Corey Kispert healthy now?
It is always a bummer when someone gets injured, but it was especially so for Kispert, who started off the year so strong. Since playing 38 minutes against Texas, Kispert has missed two games, and averaged just 11 minutes per game since he has returned. Kispert is a steadying force on the squad, and an all-around spark plug that has been missed in his absence. His ankle reportedly was taking much longer to heal, so hopefully the week off at the holiday helped with that issue.