In basketball, well basically any sport in general, fans are treated to givens and assumptions that manifested themselves during the preseason. However, we also get to experience the upsets and surprises that come about during the season – that’s what makes sports great, right?
Two of the top teams in the WCC will meet for the first time on Thursday night: Gonzaga and BYU.
What we already know:
The Zags are the number four team in the nation and they know how to play basketball…and they know how to play it well (understatement of the year). We know that if/when Coach Few puts Brandon Clarke, Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie in together that they will undoubtedly cause the Cougars a ton of grief on the offensive end. However, the trio’s defense will definitely need some improvement and the fouls need to be dialed back.
BYU’s most recent game came with a W against St. Mary’s in Provo (side note: its basically awesome whenever St. Mary’s loses). Even with pulling out a win, the Cougars were still annihilated on the boards. If they keep up that behavior against the Zags, Norvell, Hachimura and Co. will have some impressive stat sheets.
We also know that there is no true “star” on the BYU squad. There are a handful of guys who contribute decently but no one who is going to single-handedly make the Zags sweat. That being said, the Cougars’ TJ Haws has been (finally) starting to get into his groove. He’s got crazy work ethic and hustle, and has twice as many assists as anyone else on the BYU roster. Even so, Haws on his own should not be an issue for the Zags. However………
What we don’t know:
I’ll be totally honest here – whenever the Zags travel to Provo, I tend to sit on pins and needles. It is not easy to play in the Marriott Center and especially not easy if you literally have Gonzaga written on your front and have a figurative target on your back. Whenever the Zags come to town, the home team usually brings their A-game; that, we know. But the variable is if all the Cougars show up (Haws, Yoeli Childs, Gavin Baxter and Nick Emery) in an attempt to dismantle Gonzaga, it could prove to be a battle.
The other great variable is Josh Perkins (no surprise, right?) Most games, he’s fairly quiet on the scoreboard, but creates vitally important plays. During their last game in Santa Clara, he was a beast scoring 9 points within the first 10 minutes of the game. Can we see another exhibition such as this from the guard? Regardless, it’s not like the Zags don’t have other players making it happen. But for those of us who are offensive basketball fans, seeing Perkins sink basket after basket is definitely an adrenaline rush.
#4 Gonzaga (19-2, 6-0) @ BYU (13-9, 5-2) 11:00 PM ET on ESPN2 on Thursday, January 31st