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We seem to run into the same problem every year with Gonzaga. Just how good are they? The Bulldogs we're the No. 1 seed last year, but fell in the Round of 32. Now with an out-of-conference game in February against another ranked team, we'll get to know a little more about the Zags, sort of. As for Memphis, this is their first game against a ranked team since a Jan. 9 win at Louisville. While it is a non-conference game, neither team should complain about it.
It's nothing new for Gonzaga this year as they are dominating the West Coast Conference with an 11-1 record. However, they lost two of their hardest games in non-conference play, to Dayton and Kansas State. Their lone WCC loss came at Portland, a team that's 5-7 in the conference.
Memphis competes in a bit tougher conference and they've been largely up-and-down for most of the season. None more evident by its two games against Oklahoma State, losing by 21 points, but then winning by five two weeks later. Again in conference play, the Tigers won at Louisville, but lost at home to Connecticut by 10 points the next week. This is a game they have to win if they want a chance of a top-five seed come tourney time.
This isn't the same Gonzaga team from a year ago, far from it. The Bulldogs rely largely on their backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., something that wasn't the case last year. Sam Dower is a great player and their second-leading scorer with 14.6 PPG, but the duo of him and Przemek Karnowski cannot compare to Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. And with David Stockton starting, three of their best players come in at 6-2 or shorter.
While height may not matter much against Memphis, athleticism will definitely play a factor. The Tigers are also led by their guards in Joe Jackson (14.6 PPG), Michael Dixon Jr. (11.5 PPG), Geron Johnson (9.3 PPG) and Chris Crawford (9 PPG), but they are all terrific athletes. Not to say Pangos and company are slow and can't jump, but not many can match up well with the Memphis guards.
Gonzaga shouldn't have much of an advantage down low either, even with Dower. He'll get marked by Shaq Goodwin (12.5, 6.6 RPG), who is very active for a big guy.
The Bulldogs are third in the nation in field goal percentage, shooting over 50 percent as a team. That stat will need to show up in this game because otherwise, the result won't be too kind, especially on the road.
The Tigers are coming off a game in which they shot 59 percent from the field and 12-of-19 from long range which is almost unheard of from these players, who regularly have trouble hitting three-pointers.
Pangos (15.3 PPG), Gonzaga's leading scorer has only made five field goals in the last three games and that trend can't continue if they want to win. The problem is that he's going to get one of his tougher matchups of the season in Joe Jackson.
The Bulldogs know that a loss here will have people doubting them a month from now, while that isn't the case for Memphis, who still has three games against ranked teams after this one.
Predicted Score - Gonzaga 80 Memphis 79
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