The Gonzaga Bulldogs return from the deep south to snow-covered Spokane to face yet another Pacific Northwest opponent, the Montana Grizzlies.
Coming off their highest profile and best executed win of the season, the Zags return to what should be an eerily quiet Kennel with the students on Holiday break. Regardless of the Kennel’s noise level, let’s hope Gonzaga can continue to build on the positives they’ve shown in their last four games as the WCC opener looms in just 11 days.
Meet the opponent
Montana Grizzlies, 6-5, KenPom #182
Gonzaga and Montana share one opponent this season, Xavier University. The Grizzlies traveled to Cincinnati on November 11th where they were beaten 86-64. They are currently on a three-game winning streak defeating both North and South Dakota States and Prairie View A&M. The Grizzlies are led by 6’ 10” Australian Josh Bannan whose averaging 15.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Weirdly, Bannan is also their assists leader at 3.1 per game while shooting 55% from three with 20 attempts. Their second leading scorer is 6’ 3” Redshirt Senior Aanen Moody who also played at Southern Utah and North Dakota. Moody is averaging 15.1 ppg. Colorado State transfer Dischon Thomas is a load at 6’ 9”, 236 lbs and the team’s second leading rebounder (5.4 rpg)
The Grizzlies coach is Travis DeCuire who’s in his ninth season at Montana. Montana will often go nine-deep but in the tough Prairie View A&M victory all the starters played more than 30 minutes.
What to watch out for
The Zags can’t take it too easy
Following their best game of the season, it would be understandable for GU to be less than focused against an outclassed Montana squad. The students are gone and after the game, they have an eight-day break for Christmas. Hopefully, Mark Few can maintain their focus. Continue to take care of the ball and keep the game’s turnover total in single digits while maintaining the upward trend in offensive efficiency, Montana is KenPom’s 230th team on defensive efficiency.
A chance to rest starters and give the bench minutes
Adam Morrison had a great comment on his podcast last week on why Gonzaga didn’t empty their bench earlier against the UW Huskies. The Huskies never conceded the game, i.e. they played their regular rotation until the last two minutes. Let’s hope Gonzaga can build a large enough lead where the game is not in doubt over the last ten minutes and Montana raises the white flag. I’d love to see Reid, Gregg and Harris get extended minutes and even see Colby Brooks, Abe Eagle and Joe Few. It would be great for the bench to get big minutes in this game and play most of the contest against the Zags next opponent, D-II Eastern Oregon
In the seven weeks since their loss to Xavier, Montana’s highest rated opponent was Southern Mississippi (KenPom 140). Gonzaga will have the highest rated, toughest defense the Griz will face this season. Gonzaga hasn’t held an opponent to under 60 points this season and wouldn’t it be great for Montana to be the first.