Gonzaga just won the Battle for the Pacific Northwest over Washington. Now, the Zags have to take on Arizona in the Battle for the West. The Wildcats have lost two straight to the the Bulldogs but Gonzaga has never won at the McKale Center. Saturday will be only the second time the Zags have played there (first matchup at Arizona resulted in a 66-63 OT loss back in December of 2014). The Zags are more than ready for the rowdiness that the U of A faithful will be bringing to this Saturday matchup and will need to succeed inside the paint to come away with a win. Attack the rim against the Arizona bigs and you will have a better chance of coming away with a victory.
Arizona Wildcats (10-1 overall, 7-0 away)
After being named tournament champions of the Wooden Legacy (which had an extremely weak field), the Wildcats lost their first major test of the season to a talented Baylor team in Waco.
The reason for the Wildcats early success comes in the backcourt. Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Dylan Smith, Jemarl Baker Jr., Max Hazzard. This team is loaded with talented guards (not to mention an injured Brandon Williams who I’m sure Gonzaga fans are familiar with).
Wins - Northern Arizona, Illinois, San Jose State, New Mexico State, South Dakota State, long Beach State, Pepperdine*, Penn*, Wake Forest*, Omaha
Losses - @ #18 Baylor
* Wooden Legacy
KenPom Ranking - #12
- 85.5 points per game
- 36.9 rebounds per game
- 17.6 assists per game
- 4.0 blocks per game
- 7.8 steals per game
- 63.2 points allowed per game
- 51.2 field goal percentage
Player to Watch For:
Nico Mannion, Freshman - 14.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 41.7 3P%
The future NBA lottery pick is a special ball-handler and can be an elite passer at the next level. He’s crafty on the offensive end, scoring in many different ways (off the dribble, from long range, step-back). You name the move, he can probably do it while scoring on you. Nico has gladly taken over the role as Sean Miller’s guy on this Wildcat team.
#6 Gonzaga @ #15 Arizona - 10:00 PM ET on Saturday, December 14th
Score Prediction: 81-77, Wildcats over Bulldogs
A fully, healthy backcourt is what the Zags need to beat the Wildcats on Saturday night and we’re not sure about Admon Gilder or even if Ryan Woolridge is 100%. I don’t think Joel Ayayi and Martynas Arlauskas (who will see an increased amount of minutes in Tucson) will be enough to slow down the Arizona backcourt.
*Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho