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GU has to guard against an upset

BULLDOGS PREGAME

This is a West Coast Conference road game in which Gonzaga should be heavily favored. The Bulldogs are. But they could lose. How?

• The Santa Clara hangover. You know the Zags were pointing toward the USC game. The Broncos had a pretty darn good non-conference, they were a big team with a nasty attitude and the Leavey Center sellout crowd was poised to lift its team to an upset. But it didn't happen. Gonzaga was prepared, made adjustments when needed and, all in all, was the better team. But that win may have come at an emotional cost. Even experienced teams can have a let down after a big win, and Gonzaga isn't the most experienced team in the country.

• A lack of inside game. The Gaels are one of if not the best shot-blocking teams in the conference(averaging 4.7 a game, 52nd nationally), averaging more than a block a game better than GU. So if 6-foot-7 Diamon Simpson and 6-11 freshman reserve Omar Samhan can shut off GU's inside game, enticing Josh Heytvelt et al to float outside instead of taking it to the rim, the Zags' offense could sputter.

• The hot outside shooting factor. Over the years, when the Zags have lost in the WCC – I know you'll have to search your memory because GU has won 30 consecutive games against WCC opponents – someone has just exploded from the outside against them. Maybe it's 6-4 guard Wayne Hunter tonight. Of 6-5 senior Brett Collins. Or 6-7 Ian O'Leary or 6-2 Todd Golden off the bench. None are shooting better than 37 percent (Collins) from outside the arc, but if one of them gets unconsciously hot, watch out.

There are other factors, of course, that could play in to the Gaels earning an upset tonight, the usual road problems of tough calls, tough crowds and tough offensive stretches.

All that being said, I don't think St. Mary's will win. It may be tougher than anyone might think comparing the Gaels' 9-9 record against two top 25 teams with the Zags' 12-6 mark vs. seven ranked teams (either when GU played them or after). But, in the end, Gonzaga will prevail.

What do you think?



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