College Basketball Game of the Week: WCC Rivals Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s Clash
College basketball’s West Coast Conference has been dominated by two teams in the 2010s and 2020s.
The No. 12 Gonzaga Bulldogs and the No. 18 Saint Mary’s Gaels have appeared in the Top 25 rankings throughout the 21st century and have been the conference’s main representatives in NCAA Tournaments.
The two rivals will meet again on Saturday as they look to claim the top spot in the conference.
Coach Mark Few has kept Gonzaga in the national conversation in nearly every year he has coached the team. But the Bulldogs find themselves in unfamiliar territory this time around: outside the top 10.
Gonzaga stumbled out of the gate by losing three of its non-conference games. After an 11-game win streak, the Bulldogs lost at home for the first time in 75 games with a loss against Loyola Marymount on Jan. 19.
The difference between this Gonzaga squad and ones from the past is that the team isn’t as deep. The Bulldogs can generally take care of business in the WCC, but in big games the supporting class sometimes can’t get the job done.
They are led by senior forward Drew Timme who was a Wooden Award candidate heading into the season. Although he hasn’t been able to cement himself as a lead candidate for the award, Timme has still led this Gonzaga team.
Timme has scored less than 10 points only twice this season and is also the team’s leading rebounder with 7.7 per game.
But the rest of the team struggles in big games and it showed against Loyola Marymount.
The team’s second leading scorer Julian Strawther went cold in the game by shooting one for eight from the field and one from five from three point range.
The junior guard is a 48.1% shooter and if he can’t meet expectations against big teams, Gonzaga may be in trouble come March.
The rest of the team has to step up as well, as the Bulldogs shot 28.6% from deep in the Loyola Marymount loss.
Saint Mary’s is a team that also struggled in non-conference play but all four of its losses were by single digits. The Gaels have not lost in conference play so far.
Saint Mary’s has been winning games the same way it always has by playing lock down defense. Despite being last in the WCC in points per game, the Gaels rank first in defensive scoring and have the largest margin between offensive and defensive scoring.
Even with its strong defense, Saint Mary’s will need to be able to match Gonzaga’s scoring as the Bulldogs lead the WCC in points per game.
Saint Mary’s has four different players averaging more than 10 points a game. But senior guard Alex Ducas is a candidate to outperform his average.
With Ducas’s experience, he knows what it takes to win in this rivalry and is coming off an 18 point game in their last win against San Francisco.
Dating back to 2000, Saint Mary’s have only won 11 games against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are still a strong team but aren’t playing to their usual standard.
With a weaker Gonzaga team, one of the best defenses in the country and home-court advantage, the Gaels will look to take the first of the two regular season meetings between these teams.
Jayson O’Connell is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.