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Pepperdine vs #24 Gonzaga Preview

West Coast Conference play tips off tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Pepperdine Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

This has to be the final trial run for the Lorenzo Romar experiment in Malibu (round 2). Yes, he is an exceptional recruiter and has produced lots of talent (Kessler Edwards, Maxwell Lewis, Colbey Ross) since 2018. Romar just isn’t a winning basketball coach (112-145 overall record and 46-73 in WCC since the start of the 2018-2019 season). It was fun for the first few years and when the Waves won the CBI championship in 2020-2021 but the last few seasons have been nothing short of disastrous.

Pepperdine’s record -

7-8 (W vs Concordia, L @ UC Davis, W vs Lafayette, W vs Long Island, L vs UNLV, L vs UC Irvine, W vs Indiana State, W vs New Mexico, W vs Idaho State, L @ Colorado, L vs Cal State Fullerton, W vs UC San Diego, L @ Louisville, W vs Williams and Mary, W vs Westcliff)

Key stats -

72.2 PPG

68.8 points allowed

45.4 FG%

34.1 3P%

68.6 FT%

35.9 RPG

13.8 APG

5.0 SPG

3.4 BPG

12.4 TO

KenPom rankings -

#219 overall

102.9 adjusted offensive efficiency (#209)

106.6 adjusted defensive efficiency (#219)

Key player to watch for -

Michael Ajayi (junior, guard) - 17.3 PPG on 48.4 FG% and 55.6 3PT%, 9.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG

Another potential NBA Draft prospect coming out of Malibu. Ajayi is a flamethrower from beyond the arc out on the wing and has great size for his position at 6’7” to get those shots over bigger defenders. He also plays downhill with his aggressive force of nature and doesn’t shy away from contact. Ajayi is a double-double machine with 8 so far which ranks him tied for fourth in the nation.

The junior college transfer from Kent, Washington is leading the West Coast Conference in scoring after non-conference play even with Houston Mallette (junior guard who has scored over 1,000 points in his career) returning for the Waves and Jevon Porter (Michael Porter Jr.’s brother) still recovering from his knee injury this past offseason. Like I previously mentioned, Romar always has a lot of NBA potential on his roster and this team is no different.

New beginnings. This is the first game of 2024 as Pepperdine is welcomed into what should be a rocking Spokane Arena at 6 PM PT on ESPN+. It all starts with the perimeter defense for the Zags tonight. The Waves have a lot of talent out on the wing and I expect Anton Watson to do most of the damage defensively out there. Gonzaga hasn’t lost to Pepperdine since 2002 and I don’t expect that to end tonight.

Time to go on a long winning streak in West Coast Conference play. No excuses.

Remember that this game benefits the Community Cancer Fund so we don’t forget those who have fallen from this terrible disease.

Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho