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Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s game preview: Zags aim for another undefeated WCC run

What a better finale than in Moraga.

NCAA Basketball: St. Mary’s at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are looking to run through the West Coast Conference undefeated for the first time since 2013. The only road block in the way is perhaps the largest one each and every year, a road game against the Saint Mary’s Gaels in Moraga, California.

Rui Hachimura scored 27 points against Pacific in an 88-66 win on Thursday night. Brandon Clarke added 21 points and 13 rebounds in the win.

Saint Mary’s easily defeated Portland on Thursday to clinch at least a share of second place in the WCC. The Gaels outright own second-place now, sitting a game ahead of BYU in the standings. However, if the game goes how we want it to tomorrow, the Gaels will earn another loss, sitting level with the Cougars.

Meet the opponent

There is no denying this is a down year by recent Saint Mary’s standards. The Gaels currently own four conference losses, and Gonzaga just absolutely walloped Saint Mary’s the last time around in Spokane. Is there any reason for it to be much different tomorrow evening?

For starters, we shouldn’t bank on Jordan Ford only scoring eight points again. The junior guard is one of the best in the conference and leads the conference with 21.8 points per game. He is the main focal point of the Gaels’ offense, which one would imagine has a better showing on Saturday.

It was difficult to judge in Gonzaga’s 94-46 win if the Zags are that good or if the Gaels are that bad. The answer is somewhere in the middle. Saint Mary’s still boasts a hyper efficient, albeit a tad bit slow, offense, good for No. 18 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings. They can’t run with the Zags by any means, but they can slow the pace down. If Saint Mary’s can keep it semi-close, they do have a chance at pulling off the upset.

What to watch out for

Let’s see how the Zags respond to the energy.

This is going to be perhaps the most hostile arena the Zags have played in this year, and that is saying something considering they played in Chapel Hill. Gonzaga is entering Moraga as the No. 1 team in the nation on their Senior Night. Saint Mary’s also isn’t playing with a single thing to lose—often times, that is the most dangerous team out there. Despite the lofty KenPom ranking, the Gaels really don’t own a good win to their name, and their resume is paper thing. A win over Gonzaga is a step in the right direction that still lands them on the wrong side of the bubble. My guess, the fans would love for nothing more than ruining Gonzaga’s glory.

The Zags’ defense is definitely for real.

Earlier in the season, Gonzaga’s defense looked a bit suspect, ranking around the 50s for much of the first half of the year. Throughout the WCC, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Gonzaga’s run has been the defensive clampdown. Don’t listen to the people who say WCC is #trash, Saint Mary’s and BYU both own very respectable, potent offenses. In three opportunities, Gonzaga’s defense absolutely wrecked the Gaels and the Cougars.