This may seem weird, but Gonzaga is about to play their first true road game of the season on Saturday. After five neutral site games and six home contests, the Zags will make the quick trip down to Oregon to take on the Pilots.
On paper, this shouldn’t be a huge challenge for the Bulldogs. Terry Porter’s squad is 1-41 in their last 42 conference games, including the WCC Tournament. However, last season, Gonzaga entered the Chiles Center with a 14-1 record and they somehow trailed by eight with 18 minutes to go in the game. So while Portland is the weakest link in the WCC, it’s not a game where you can just sleepwalk your way to a 25-point victory.
Portland started this season 5-1 with a huge road victory over Oregon State. Since then, they have lost three of four, including their WCC opener on Thursday at San Francisco.
Ahmed Ali is the star for the Pilots. The Washington State transfer guard averages 18.4 points a game and leads the team in assists. He draws fouls at a ridiculous rate and gets to the foul line seven times a game. Their other four starters score between 8-11 points a night. As a team, they only shoot 30 percent from deep, making under six triples a game.
For Gonzaga, it would be great to jump ahead early and get these bench guys more minutes. The last couple games, the bench group has not been super sharp. When Aaron Cook is healthy, Mark Few will likely go with a seven-man rotation (with a little bit of Ballo) the rest of the season. But it would be great to get Dominick Harris and Julian Strawther going a little bit.
Game: Gonzaga at Portland
Time: 5 pm pacific
TV: ROOT Sports
KenPom: 97-66 Gonzaga