The Stats - You don't have to spend much time looking at the West Coast Conference statistics to see why matchups between these teams often end up so close (like GU's 83-78 win in January). The Zags have a slim edge in a number of categories, such as scoring offense (77.1 to 75.2), defense (59.5 to 61.4), scoring margin, field goal percentage, and three-point shooting. The Gaels' biggest weakness is their three-point defense, where they rank 333rd out of 345 teams, allowing makes on 38.5 percent of opponents' tries. Kevin Pangos was the lone beneficiary of that in January, accounting for three of the Bulldogs' four made threes. Where Randy Bennett's team excels is on the glass. They're 4th in the nation in rebound margin (9.4), and had a 39-27 edge on the Zags the first time around.
The Storylines - Beginning in 2001, Gonzaga and St. Mary's have claimed every WCC Regular Season Championship. In all likelihood that will be the case again this season, with Thursday's result helping decide which team adds to that streak. Speaking of streaks, GU's run of 14 straight years with a regular season or tournament championship ended last year when the Gaels claimed both. In each of the last four years the WCC Championship Game came down to SMC and Gonzaga. As far as current trends go, St. Mary's is the hottest team in the conference, with nine straight wins dating back to their loss in Spokane. A 10th would earn them a half-game edge on the Zags. But if Gonzaga claims WCC win No. 11 Thursday, Mark Few's team will be awfully hard to catch.