After an emotional night of celebrating the career of Adam Morrison and clinching the 8th straight WCC regular season championship with a win over San Diego, #3 Gonzaga (28-2, 14-1) has to get ready for another touching as well as vital matchup with Saint Mary’s (24-6, 11-4). Although tomorrow’s game means nothing for the Zags in the case for seeding in the WCC Tournament (Gonzaga has already secured the #1 seed), a victory over a rival in the Gaels will go along way in securing a #1 seed for March Madness and preparing the Zags for the rigors that the Sin City has to offer next week.
As for Saint Mary’s, they’re still trying to figure out where they’ll end up seeded for the WCC Tournament. We shall see if anything will change on Saturday as the Gaels are currently a game behind BYU for the #2 seed and a game ahead of Pacific at the #3 seed. Saint Mary’s would win the tiebreaker for the #2 seed if for some reason they beat the Zags and BYU somehow loses to Pepperdine. That goes the same for the #3 seed even if the Gaels lose at Gonzaga and Pacific defeats San Diego.
Right now, Saint Mary’s is in the NCAA Tournament field. Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Gaels as an 8th seed in the East Bracket, playing their first round matchup in nearby Sacramento but as fans know, nothing is certain in the world of college basketball. A win over Gonzaga would guarantee an at-large bid into March Madness for Randy Bennett’s crew so a lot is on the line for them.
The Gaels are coming off a road victory over Santa Clara at the Leavey Center, 78-72. 1st team All-WCC performer Jordan Ford contributed 33 points in the win. Defensively, the Zags need to control the perimeter and make sure Saint Mary’s (specifically Ford, Krebs, and Fitts) doesn’t get hot from beyond the arc if they want to come away with another victory. Gonzaga held the Gaels to only 4-14 from three-point land the first time they played in early February and that led to a blowout victory in Moraga, 90-60. If Saint Mary’s (3rd in the nation at .408 3P%) can get it going from deep this time around, tomorrow’s game could end up being a lot different.
Offensively, Gonzaga needs their bigs to both attack the paint and stretch the floor with the mid-range. This is where Filip Petrusev, Drew Timme, and Killian Tillie work their magic. That trio scored 57 of Gonzaga’s 90 points in the first matchup against the Gaels. Saint Mary’s plays a more small-ball style so they’re relatively limited for size in the starting frontcourt with Malik Fitts and Dan Fotu. Use your size to your advantage and good things will happen.
Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga with the final regular season game in the WCC. Doesn’t get any better than that. Tune into ESPN2 this Saturday, February 29th at 7 PM PT to show support for the seniors (Killian Tillie, Ryan Woolridge, and Admon Gilder) in their last game at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
*Arden Cravalho is a senior at Gonzaga University... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho