#1 Gonzaga vs. #4 Saint Mary’s
Date: Monday, March 10th, 2014
Location: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
Time: 6:30 p.m. PST
This Season: Gonzaga blew out Saint Mary’s in both Moraga and Spokane.
James Walker III
Everybody has heard the phrase “it is hard to beat a team three times,” regarding college basketball. In the WCC tournament semifinals, Gonzaga has a chance to do that by knocking off the Saint Mary’s Gaels for the third time this season. On the other side, Saint Mary’s has a chance to prove to the college basketball community it is indeed tough to beat a team three times, and send the one seed packing back to Spokane, Wash.
However, based on past results throughout the season, the Gaels chances of pulling the upset are slim. In the two team’s first matchup in Spokane, the Gaels were crushed by 22 points. In the two team’s second outing in Moraga, which was senior night for the Gaels, Saint Mary’s was obliterated by 28 points to end the regular season.
However, based on the competing team’s recent contests, a win for the Gaels might not seem as farfetched. Gonzaga needed a game-winning layup from David Stockton to push past #8 Santa Clara while Saint Mary’s handled #5 Pepperdine with relative ease. Saint Mary’s is coming in as the hotter team, and will look to push its way past Gonzaga to reach the WCC tournament finals with a chance of earning a berth into the NCAA tournament.
Keys to the Game
Control the Glass
In the two team’s previous matchups, the rebounding margin was an average plus-15 in favor of Gonzaga. GU forwards Przemek Karnowski, Sam Dower and Angel Nunez have dominated the boards in both contests.
It is up to Brad Waldow, Beau Levesque and Matt Hodgeson to commit to boxing out and going toe-to-toe with the Gonzaga bigs on the glass. Garrett Jackson is another forward who can contribute on the glass, but whether he receives significant minutes or not will determine the impact he can make.
Defend the Perimeter
The Gaels have had a tough time shooting the deep ball against Gonzaga this season, and the Bulldogs need to make sure they continue to do so. In the regular season, Saint Mary’s only connected on six of the 30 3-pointers it shot throughout the season, which is a 20 percent clip.
Despite the Gaels struggle, the long ball is something that the Gaels typically excel at. Stephen Holt and Kerry Carter both shoot over 40.0 percent from 3, and James Walker III shoots over 35.0 percent. Beau Levesque, Jordan Giusti and Garrett Jackson all have the ability to knock down long jumpers when they are open. While they do not play much, Dane Pineau and Evidas Petrilius are shooting an impressive 41.2 percent and 52.9 percent from 3-point range this season.
Gonzaga needs to make sure that a majority of these players are kept in check and that no one has a field day from beyond the parabola tomorrow night.
Holt has a skill set that is tailor-made to torch the Zags. He is a 6’4” lead guard that can shoot the 3-pointer (43.1 percent from 3 this season) and can get to the hole and draw fouls (shoots 5.4 foul shots per game).
The senior point guard has already played two underwhelming games against the Bulldogs this season. It is now the time for him to go off against Gonzaga for a chance to carry the Gaels to the NCAA tournament.
The big man from Poland is an impact player for Gonzaga game-in and game-out. This matchup is no different.
The Zags need Karnowski to use his vast size to disrupt Gael forward Brad Waldow and assert his dominance inside on the offensive end of the court. If the sophomore center accomplishes these things, the Bulldogs will be playing on Tuesday night for a chance to play for an NCAA tournament berth.
Usually this game would have bigger implications, as Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have met in the final of the WCC tournament the last five seasons. Obviously that has ended this year with the Bulldogs and Gaels being on the same side of the bracket.
Although it’s not for the WCC championship, this game between two hated rivals will be heavily coveted by each team. While I think it will be much more competitive than their previous meet ups, Gonzaga matches up very well with Saint Mary’s and will prevail over the Gaels. Gonzaga 73, Saint Mary’s 67.