BYU at Gonzaga
Time: 7:00 pm PST
Max Graves (MG), James Stapleton (JS), Josh Horton (JH), James Piggot (JP) and I (ST) had a nice chat about BYU versus Gonzaga, and it’s implications on the West Coast Conference…
ST: BYU vs. Gonzaga. First thoughts. Ready set go:
JP: For BYU it is crucial to defend the post. Last year they gave up a combined 51 points to Olynyk/Harris in the game at the Kennel. Dower and Karnowski could pose similar problems for BYU this year. On the other hand though, Eric Mika could pose problems for Gonzaga if he is more aggressive than he was against Portland.
JH: Obviously this matchup lost a little bit of its luster with BYU losing to Portland in triple overtime the other night. The Kennel is not the place where you want to be fatigued. Gonzaga is finally back at full strength, as Gary Bell Jr. is back healthy. The mental fortitude of this BYU team will get arguably its best test of the season tomorrow night.
ST: I’m going to counter Josh. I think this game just gained an insane amount of luster with the Portland win. But that is for my next question. Who needs this win more?
MG: BYU has missed out on many chances to get a signature win this year, with this being the last chance to get a real quality road win. Gary Bell back in the lineup will be huge for the Zags because he is their best perimeter defender. I think BYU wants this win very badly. Should be really competitive between these two teams.
JH: BYU no question. Gonzaga can still afford a couple of WCC losses. At this point, BYU really can’t with with another matchup with the Zags and two with Saint Mary’s down the road.
JP: BYU absolutely needs this win more. If they lose this game they will fall to 5-4 in the conference, and at that point even an NIT bid seems like a long shot. Gonzaga could still get an NCAA at-large bid at this point, even with a loss to BYU. (Although it might give the selection committee more doubt about Gonzaga).
ST: If I said that Gonzaga needs this game more than BYU, what would you say? In fact, for argument’s sake, here is why Gonzaga needs this game more: BYU is not going to lose at the Marriott Center. If Gonzaga loses this game, at home, then they will lose to the highest RPI team they play at home. If Gonzaga loses this game, they are sitting on 4 losses overall, tied with SMC in the loss column and have trips to USF, SCU, Memphis, BYU, and SMC still to go.
JP: Without a marquee non-conference victory, Gonzaga needs to dominate league play in order to get a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament. This game could still give them a solid RPI win. But BYU still needs this game more.
ST: Gonzaga is good at home but they aren’t nearly as good on the road. Gonzaga needs a “marquee” win badly and unless they want to bank on good results on the road, they need this win badly.
JP: Exactly, they end with BYU, USD, SMC, and Pacific all on the road so they need every home victory they can get right now.
JH: BYU has a pretty tough road after the Gonzaga game as well, SMC, USF, SMC again, GU and Portland still to go. BYU would fall to 5-4 in conference with a loss. I can’t think of any WCC in recent memory to start off with a 5-4 record in conference and still make the NCAA tournament.
MG: I wouldn’t necessarily say a win at home to BYU is a “marquee” win by any stretch. It’s not a bad loss, but not a great win. BYU has one win in the top 50 RPI, to Texas. Not an impressive resume.
ST: Why do you say Gonzaga is a lock Max?
MG: Lunardi currently has them as a 7 seed. Top 30 in both RPI and BPI. 10-2 in the non-conference, any other year we would consider that a great resume. They have shown weakness at times, but I don’t see any way they could possibly not make the tournament, barring a major collapse.
JH: I think the only thing hindering Gonzaga is its lack of a huge win. West Virginia is probably their best win at this point.
ST: If Gonzaga loses this game, loses at Memphis, loses at BYU, loses at Saint Mary’s and loses in the WCC Tournament, then we are looking at 8 losses with 1 Top-50 RPI win.
JS: Gonzaga has the most to lose. They expect to make the tournament, and if they don’t WCC fans are gonna have a field day. A loss to BYU gives the Zags two losses in the WCC with half of the conference schedule left to play.
ST: Josh – RPI wise, SMC, Arkansas, NMSU, and WV are their best wins in order.
JH: RPI is a not the best way to rank all the time though. West Virginia came on the road, that stands out compared to the other teams. I think Gonzaga needs to shoot themselves in the foot a few more times in order to be in any danger of missing the tournament. I stand firm with the notion that BYU needs this game more.
JP: Gonzaga missing out on the tournament would be considered much more of a failure than BYU missing out on the tournament. So in that sense the game might be bigger for Gonzaga.
MG: If Gonzaga loses all of those and has one more bad loss (say, a USF team that has their number at home), then they may be in some trouble. But until then I do not even think they are on the bubble.
ST: Yes/No: Portland beating BYU was good for the conference.
JS: It was bad financially, great for morale. The more WCC teams that make the tournament, the more money WCC has to spend.
JH: Short term: No. Long term: Yes, definitely.
MG: When was the last time a non-Gonzaga WCC game was one of the top stories on SportsCenter?
JP: Good in the sense that that game illustrated the depth in the WCC this year. I’ve never seen this league better top to bottom than it is this season. On the other hand it is bad in the sense that the WCC will likely end up as a one bid league this year which could hurt the conference’s reputation a bit.
ST: Follow up question: is this the year that the WCC begins to evolve into a 3-4 bid league (think A-10) or are we going to go back to Top-3 fighting for 2/3 spots?
JP: I still think it is the top 3 teams fighting for 1 or 2 spots in the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga and BYU should be consistent NCAA Tournament teams for years to come. Saint Mary’s, they need to find a new point guard to remain near the top of the WCC. Portland has a bright future as well. So I think three teams in the big dance is a possibility.
MG: I agree that the conference is as good top to bottom that it has ever been, but I don’t think that will translate into more bids. Either BYU or St. Mary’s, not both.
JS: I think that there will be less bids this year, especially if Gonzaga wins the WCC tourney. I think one bid is possible. Dog eat dog this year. BYU is not going anywhere – too big of a school. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s now have a culture in place that would be difficult to disrupt. The only way that the big three will be undone is if a team joins through financial investment. A new facility, quality recruits, and support from their community.
ST: I think that 3-4 teams isn’t unrealistic. I think that Saint Mary’s, with upgraded facilities on the way, will reload and could be a perennial tournament team. BYU will always be in the mix. Same for Gonzaga. Back to tomorrow’s game: matchup you are looking forward to?
MG: Gary Bell trying to handle the BYU guards.
JP: Dower vs. Mika: Both are extremely talented power forwards and while Dower is hot and Mika is cold right now, it should still be an interesting matchup.
JS: I’m looking forward to Haws. I want to see how fresh he is after the 3OT. I don’t think he will disappoint.
JP: If Haws can get the bad memories out of his mind from last year, I think he’ll have a good game.
JH: Kyle Collinsworth vs. GU backcourt. Although Few likes to go his small backcourt with Pangos, Bell and Stockton, Collinsworth will obliterate the Zags if they matchup up any of them on him because of his size. Kyle Dranginis and Gerard Coleman – assuming that he plays – will see a lot of minutes and will likely be given the task of guarding him. The Zags could go zone I suppose, but with able shooters Haws, Halford and Carlino, that could be a risk. However based on the matchups it might be one that Gonzaga has to take.
ST: I’m looking forward to seeing whether the Gonzaga student section will do more harm than good tomorrow. BYU is coming in banged up, tired legs, but has to play in a loud environment on National TV. If this was a quiet game with little build up, I can see BYU not playing well. But based on the importance of this game, and in order to quiet the student section, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Haws just go off to start the game. Predictions:
JP: Gonzaga will win 83-74. BYU will keep it close for a while because they are just so talented offensively, but their legs will tire out eventually and the Zags will pull away at the end.
MG: Gonzaga 89-71. They are great in the Kennel, and BYU will not be right mentally after such a draining game. Will be fun to watch.
JS: I have two predictions based on how well the Zags do offensively: Under 80 points: 77-75 BYU Over 80 points: 89-78 GU I think BYU will have trouble getting more than 80 points based on fatigue, Kennel environment and Mika’s trouble with Dower.
JH: Zags 82, BYU 69. Not sure BYU has enough in the tank to take down the Zags in Spokane.
ST: BYU* 70-69. Haws hits half court shot after Pangos gives the Zags the lead with 2.4 seconds.
*In seriousness, I think GU should win. Which means that BYU will prove me wrong…