Both Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-2) and Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats (7-3) enter this game unranked despite having spent time in the Top 25 polls this season. Even though December is still too early for Joe Lunardi’s ugly mug and jagged teeth to make their hourly appearances on ESPN, it’s no secret that both Few and Miller know that there’s a lot at stake tomorrow at Key Arena in Seattle. Both Gonzaga and Arizona are expected to challenge for their respective league titles as usual, but west coast basketball – the WCC and the Pac 12, specifically – have fallen off tremendously over the past few seasons in terms of public opinion and thus the NCAA selection committee. That means that the winner of tomorrow’s non-conference matchup (Vegas has Gonzaga favored by 4) will get a much-needed boost on their resume.
If you look at the remaining schedules for each of these squads, you’ll notice that Gonzaga still has non-conference games against Butler and #9 Xavier left on its schedule, whereas the Wildcats have just lowly Bryant University and the somewhat respectable Oakland Golden Grizzlies left to play. That leads one to believe that the Wildcats seemingly have a lot more pressure on them to escape Washington with a win.
Unfortunately for Arizona fans, the Cats do not match up well against the Bulldogs. Expect 7-0, 265 lb C Robert Sacre (15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) to dominate the paint both offensively and defensively. The only real chance for the Cats is if they can get hot from outside; Gonzaga’s 2-3 zone is borderline impenetrable and Arizona has almost no inside offensive presence to help open up the floor. In Gonzaga’s two losses this season to Illinois and Michigan State, they were taken advantage of inside by dominant big men (Meyers Leonard and Draymond Green, respectively) which led to open looks on the perimeter.
Pray for the ghost of Detlef Schrempf to be smiling upon the Wildcats tomorrow because if not, I think the Cats are going to have a hard time even keeping the score respectable. Then again, I felt the same way last week when the Cats traveled to Gainesville and they almost stole one there so I suppose stranger things have happened. BTFD, Cats!