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Archive for December 5th, 2007

GAME THREAD: No. 8 WSU (7-0) at No. 17 Gonzaga (7-1)

Posted by Jeff Nusser on December 5, 2007

McCarthy Athletic Center (Spokane), 8 p.m. PT
TV: ESPNU

Well I had this really big writeup planning the game planned, but life got in the way today, so here are some quick thoughts on the game to kick off this game thread.

First, as I mentioned below, I think the Cougs need this game worse than Gonzaga does, but I fear that the opening of the game will actually reflect the opposite, based off the way WSU has opened games this year and the way the Zags typically play at home. This is not a game where the Cougs will want to get into one of those first half holes. The raucous home court combined with the most talented opponent they’ve played won’t make a Baylor-esque comeback very likely.

The great news for you, fans, is that while Gonzaga is a talented squad, the Zags’ talent is not concentrated in the area that gives the Cougs the most trouble — namely 3-point shooting. If Josh Heytvelt were healthy, that might be a different story, but he’s still out for a while. And while Jeremy Pargo (right) and Matt Bouldin are very good guards, neither chucks it up with abandon from long range. Bouldin is a serviceable shooter out there (44 percent) but he averages less than four 3 attempts a game, and Pargo is hitting just 21 percent of his 3’s. Austin Daye, 5-for-10 for the season, is the only other Bulldog over 40 percent.

Looking for more good news? The one team Gonzaga lost to, Texas Tech, is the one team on the Zags’ schedule that plays a similar hard-nosed man-to-man defensive scheme. They had 19 turnovers in that game in getting soundly beaten by the Red Raiders.

The key to the game might well be who wins the battle of the fouls. Both teams make trips to the foul line a regular habit, as both are in the top 15 in the country in free throw rate (what’s that?). However, foul trouble has plagued the Cougs lately, and their depth does not match Gonzaga’s. A tightly-called game is advantage Gonzaga, because if it’s called tight, it’s hard to imagine the Cougs will get the benefit of the doubt in that zoo they call K2.

My take on the outcome? Because Gonzaga can slow it down or run, this won’t be an impose-their-will kind of game for the Cougs. What it will come down to is: 1) Can Gonzaga make WSU pay for its pack defense by hitting the limited 3s it will take? and 2) Can Aron Baynes and Robbie Cowgill stay on the floor — especially staying away from adrenaline fouls in the early moments of the contest?

I look for a game in the high-60s — one that the Cougs will win, 69-67.

I’ll be over at a friend’s house watching the game — thank goodness for his satellite provider! — so I think I’ll be able to get on the computer for a few moments here and there to post some thoughts. Please leave yours as you watch the game if not at a bar!

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Posted in Game Threads | 5 Comments »

Who needs to win more?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on December 5, 2007

Vince Grippi, the Cougs’ beat writer over at the Spokesman-Review, posed an interesting question this morning over at SportsLink that I thought it would be fun to throw out here for discussion as well.

Who has more on the line tonight?

For me, it’s an easy answer: The Cougs.

Here’s why. Their non-conference schedule has been softer than Santa’s belly, and while they’re going to play plenty of tough opponents in conference, the NCAA Tournament committee does look at performance outside of the conference. They notched one big win by beating a major conference opponent in a true road game; now they can beat a highly rated opponent in another true road game.

Gonzaga, on the other hand, has plenty of opportunities to impress the committee with it’s annually-loaded non-conference schedule. Plus, the Bulldogs’ RPI gets an automatic boost just by playing the Cougs because of their Pac-10 opponents. The Cougs get no such benefit if they lose.

Really, I think the Cougs only gain from this matchup if they win. Gonzaga benefits either way.

Your thoughts?

Posted in Discussion | 3 Comments »

Previews abound for tonight’s game

Posted by Jeff Nusser on December 5, 2007

Welcome to the biggest day of the season (so far)! I don’t know about you, but I had a little extra pep in my step this morning as I slipped on my crimson shirt to wear to school today.

Looking for a way to pass the down moments at work? Here’s what’s available for your reading pleasure right now:

Again, I’ll have my own preview of the game later on as part of tonight’s game thread, but this should hopefully help tide you over until then.

Posted in Around the 'Net | Comments Off on Previews abound for tonight’s game