The Gonzaga Bulldogs will open their WCC Tournament run Monday night when they take on San Francisco in Las Vegas. The sixth seeded Dons have already won a pair of games just to get this far, defeating Pacific 80-63 on Friday and edging out #3 Santa Clara 93-87 last night.
The Zags enter Orleans Arena as the second seed despite a regular season co-championship, but will still look to qualify for the title game for the 26th (!!) consecutive season. If you think this is an insane stat, you’re right; the writer of this blog was not yet born when it started.
Meet the opponent
San Francisco Dons (20-13, 7-9 WCC; NET #107, KenPom #101)
Gonzaga has already defeated USF twice this season with an 18-point home win and two-point victory on the road thanks in large part to Rasir Bolton. The Dons are not the same team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year, but evidence shows they likely won’t make this one easy on the Zags.
Khalil Shabazz is obviously the center of attention for the Dons, averaging 21 points in the teams’ two prior meetings. He did that and then some against Santa Clara, going for 38 points in the double overtime win. He pairs well with backcourt partner Tyrell Roberts, so the matchup with Hickman, Sallis, and Co. will again be one to watch.
What to watch for
Backcourt battle: As mentioned above, the lion’s share of San Francisco's offensive production comes from the backcourt. Shabazz and Roberts have both played well in their matchups with Gonzaga and combined for 54 points, nine three pointers, and six steals in the upset win over the Broncos. Their matchup on both ends of the court is one to focus on.
Big game for Bolton?: Rasir Bolton has scored 20+ points three times this year, and two of those performances came against the Dons. He was particularly on one at USF, scoring 11 of his team high 21 in the final 5:15, including the game-winner. Another strong performance would go a long way towards a Zags win.
Record books: Drew Timme is 22 points from passing Frank Burgess for the most all-time in program history. The Dons’ size and gameplan have been pretty solid in limiting Timme to at or below his season average in the two previous meetings, but I’d say there’s still a decent chance the record falls. That would be icing on the cake should the Zags take care of business.
An eye on the crowd: Because you never know when some guy in a green shirt will make his feelings known.