It's game day again! The Gonzaga men's basketball team (25-9) looks to push into the Sweet 16 when they face Brigham Young University (31-4) at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:45pm (PT). It's a game that can only be seen on KREM 2.
The two squads are future conference foes. BYU, currently in the Mountain West, moves to the West Coast Conference next season. The Bulldogs are the kings of the WCC, winning 11 straight regular season titles. It only makes sense that Gonzaga (perennial power) and BYU (will be the largest school in the conference) become instant rivals. This game is a preview of what's to come and it's also for early bragging rights.
You can't talk about the Cougars without talking about superstar Jimmer Fredette. He leads the country in scoring with 28.5 points per game. The Bulldogs admitted to me yesterday that Fredette will score points no matter how hard they try to defend him. Demetri Goodson wants to hold him to 20 or 25 points, while Sam Dower expects him to put up 30. As Elias Harris told me, it's going to take a team effort to contain him. Fredette is the key to this game. If Gonzaga can limit his output, they have a great chance to take down the Cougars.
The BYU players insisted to me yesterday that they're more than a one-man team. Jackson Emery is the only other player who averages double-figures in scoring (12.5 ppg) for the Cougars. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, third leading scorer Brandon Davies (11.1 ppg) is suspended for the remainder of the season. He broke the school's honor code by having premarital "relations" with his girlfriend. Noah Hartsock (8.5 ppg) and Charles Abouo (7.3 ppg) are also contributors.
The loss of Davies doesn't just hurt the Cougars on the stat sheet. The 6'9" forward was one of the tallest players on the team. BYU is also without Chris Collinsworth (6'9" as well) after he tore cartilage in his knee earlier this season. That leaves the Cougars with only one player taller than 6'8". That's James Anderson (6'10"), who only averages seven points per game this season. I'm guessing he'll see the floor more than usual tonight to help battle Gonzaga's size advantage.
The Cougars don't see their lack of size as a disadvantage. The smaller they are; the quicker they can be. BYU plans on upping the tempo as much as possible and leaving the big fellas in the dust. On the defensive end, they want to force Gonzaga to beat them on the perimeter. This should all sound very familiar. That's exactly what St. John's wanted to do. That obviously didn't work very well for the Red Storm (GU pounded them 86-71 in the opening round). I don't know if the Bulldogs can repeat the incredible shooting performance they had against the Johnnies (they shot 60% from three-point range and nearly 54% from the field overall), but stranger things have happened. Expect to see the Zags pound the post as much as possible.
I'm not trying to sound like a homer (I'd be honest with you if I thought different), but Gonzaga has a great chance to pull this off. I wasn't impressed by BYU (aside from Jimmer) during their shootaround on Wednesday, I didn't think much of them in their game against Wofford on Thursday, and I wasn't blown away by them yesterday during their media availability. As for Gonzaga, they've really impressed me here in Denver. The Bulldogs played their best game of the season (in their own words) on Thursday. They did things I didn't even know this squad was capable of.
The Bulldogs were very loose in the locker room yesterday. There were a lot of laughs, especially when Kelly Olynyk took my microphone and interviewed Sam Dower. Click here for the link to that video. We had an issue at the station bringing in the press conference feed yesterday, so we don't have the uncut sound on KREM.com. I'm really, really, really sorry about that. I feel like we failed you. I'm hoping there's no issue with the postgame pressers tonight (we plan on streaming those live on our website).
Believe it or not, the Bulldogs are actually a one-point favorite tonight. It opened as an even line, but bettors are putting their money on Gonzaga to pull the upset (if you want to call it that).
We'll see how it all shakes out! Watch KREM 2 News at 10pm and 11pm for full coverage from Denver. We'll also has extensive coverage on KREM.com. We'll also have blow out coverage of the Gonzaga women. They face Iowa in the NCAA Tournament today in Spokane (1:10pm/ESPN2). It's a big day for the university!
That's all I have for you! Enjoy the game (or games if you're watching the women as well).