WCC Game 3: vs. Gonzaga

Tip-off: Thurs., 6:30pm @ Leavey
Line: Torvik- Zags -6.2, 72% win probability; ESPN- Zags -9.5, 70% win prob.

Zags are 11-4 on the season, and 2-0 in the WCC coming off decisive 20+ point wins over Pepperdine and USD. The Zags are currently ranked #45 on NET and #22 on Torvik.
Zags Starting Lineup:
5/C - 6-9 Graham Ike (15.2 pts, 8rebs, 61% FG%)
4/PF - 6-8 Anton Watson (13.8pts, 7.3rebs, 1.3steals)
3/SF - 6-6 Dusty Stromer (6.4pts, 4.3rebs, 33% from 3)
2/SG - 6-2 Nolan Hickman (12.7pts, 2.6assists, 38% from 3)
1/PF - 6-0 Ryan Nembhard (12.5pts, 4.1rebs, 6 assists, 25% from 3)

Back-up posts:
6-10 Braden Huff (10.5pts, 4.3rebs, 35% from 3)
6-10 Ben Gregg (8.1pts, 4.9rebs, 36% from 3)

GU’s back-up bigs are the best in the WCC and would start for most WCC teams.

  • see posts below for additional thoughts on the Zags and match-up issues.

Prediction: Sendek finally gets his first win vs. the Zags, 79-75.


Thursday is our best chance to beat the Zags in a long long time and it’s the first time I expect to win.


SCU matches up really well with this Zaga squad.

The blueprint is there. Purdue, Wash, UConn, and SDSU all showed that if you can make scoring difficult on Watson and Ike on the interior then Gonzaga becomes very vulnerable as they rely heavily on those two and struggle creating offense off the bounce or shooting from the perimeter. SCU has the guys to make life hard on Watson and Ike.

On top of that Gonzaga will have trouble matching up with Bal, Marshall, Bryan on the other side of the ball. I expect Watson will come out on Bal, but honestly Bal is a step quicker and might just blow by the Zag’s best defender. Besides if Watson does guard Bal, then who the hell is gonna take Marshall?

My biggest fear is Herb’s non contact man D… if they play like touching an opponent is strictly off limits Ike and Watson will score 40 between them on 80% shooting and that’s pretty much impossible to overcome. If they fight on the interior it’s a game that SCU can win.


I think it’s more likely they put Stromer on Bal, which means Hickman takes Marshall? Regardless, it’s a favorable matchup for us.

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I’d be happy if they did that. You’re right, no matter how they matchup its going to lead to some positive mismatches for SCU.
This Zags squad has played some zone, and I would certainly anticipate seeing some tomorrow night. In general Nembhard and Hickman struggle defensively with speedy or strong guards.


Agreed, but I think we’ll need above average defenders to frequently front those interior players to deny interior passes (and hopefully force some turnovers). Caffaro doesn’t strike me as the guy who can front well. I think McEldon is better suited for said task.

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I agree, plus I think that they will mix in some full-court press. Given SCU’s turnover issues, why not press the entire floor? More time actively defended likely means many more contested dribbles (unless we magically become great passers all of a sudden) and subsequently lots of turnovers that convert into easy transition buckets.

Cafffaro just needs to allowed to fight on the interior… he’s got 5 fouls, use them. Same with Tilly, Tongue, McEldon, O’Neil


I should clarify: I like the idea of Caffaro banging on the inside defensively, I just don’t think he’s an ideal candidate to FRONT his man. Caffaro has neither a great vertical leap nor long arms so it would be easy to pass over the top of him toward the rim for an easy dunk. McEldon could effectively front a big, given his size, length, and (relative) quickness.

You’re spot on there buckets, the press will bother SCU (espically if Bal is bringing the ball up the court). The one thing I will add is that with such a limited bench the press is a double edged sword for Gonzaga. Few plays Nembhard and Hickman 40 mins a night when they are in a real game, so they can only press in short periods.

Gonzaga effectively pressed SDSU late in that game and it got them back in the contest, but it also made them run of of gas and were essentially dead in the water for the final 4 minutes of that game.


As Bettererer noted, the Broncos have some potential match-up advantages. The Zags are smallish in the backcourt and on the wings. Watson is the best defensive player in the league, solid athlete with great defensive fundamentals, anticipation and hands and is capable of guarding most positions on the floor with maybe the exceptions of the quickest of PG’s and 7’+ bigs. The Zags may chose to Watson on Bal but that creates match-up issues elsewhere. But even if the Zags match-up straight up (meaning PG on PG, PF on PF, etc.) then the Broncos will still have a size advantage on the wings. Bal at 6-7 has 5 inches on the 6-2 Hickman; Hickman won’t be able to challenge Bal 3pt shots or midrange and floaters. Stromer is similar in size to Marshall but is only a freshman, and has some filling out to do and isn’t nearly as strong as Carlos. We’ve posted Carlos up occasionally and we should do it several times if Stromer (or Hickman) are guarding him and keep going to it if successful until GU doubles Marshall in the post or changes match-ups. The size/strength advantage also continues when Bryan is in.

That said…keep an eye out for a couple of adjustment the Zags may make to address the match-up issues:

  • The Zags only depth is at the post with Gregg and Huff. With no depth at the perimeter positions, Watson has been sliding down to the 3 spot at times with 2 of 3 of Ike/Huff/Gregg at the 4 and 5 spots. This lineup would partially address the Bronco’s size advantage on the wings, particularly if they also slide Stromer down to the 2 for a few mins here and there in lieu of one of their small guards.
  • The other option for the Zags is to give more PT for the lightly used but long 6-8 Jun Seok Yeo who averages about 9mins a game backing up Stromer at the 3. Jun is fairly aggressive and athletic and could match up better with Marshall.

Switching gears to Ike in the post…he has had some strong games of late and is a load in the post, left handed with a soft touch and deadly jump hook when allowed to turn over his right shoulder. He does not jump well but uses his strong frame to establish good position and shield the defender and get his shot off. Hopefully Sendek and staff have schemed for him and encourage Tilly and Caffaro to overplay his right shoulder and force Ike to go to left shoulder moves which is not what he prefers. And hopefully Tilly and Caffaro’s length advantage can challenge and bother Ike’s shot, but it all starts with preventing Ike from establishing low position and not allowing him to back down his defender once he has the ball.

I think this one is close for awhile but we falter down the stretch.

83-71 zags


A gentle snowfall is settling in over Casa Nashty here in the rockies and it is set to get dang cold.

I’m huddled up and ready to read your erudite analysis about tonight’s game and what we’ve we got? Nada today? Midwest predicting a loss?

This is probably the best chance we’ve had to beat GU since the last time we beat them… a fond memory, but 26 match ups ago – and we’ve had some dang close calls over the years since then.

DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR ! GO BRONCOS ! BEAT GONZAGA - I will be tuned in and if you can get out to the game in person, do it! We’ve beaten SMC and BYU teams approximately as good as this incarnation of GU. Let’s go get it done! To the Hut!

I may even have to crack into my dwindling supply of Anchor Steam.


Our team COULD win, but I think it can only happen if HS goes against his conventional offense and defense and does some things DIFFERENTLY. More specifically, instituting schemes that are effective at masking our weaknesses and amplifying our strengths, while exposing their weaknesses and mitigating their strengths. I’ve already detailed some ideas around this earlier in the thread (anyone feel free to torch me if you think I’m wrong, happy to have those spirited debates).

But I fear HS will simply stick to his one way of doing things, making Few’s job of preparing his squad quite easy. I hope that I am surprised.


I have to think that, over the 26 losses, SCU had had more almost-beat-Gonzagas than anyone else in the conference who has yet to get there in that time. Portland, USF, and LMU have all gotten there in that span, though it was a while back for both of the former. Sam Dower’s buzzer beater three? David Stockton’s no-call push off in the WCC tournament? Last year’s off-balance Hickman three (not a buzzer beater but critical in allowing GU to escape Leavey)?

Plus probably 3-4 others with the game within 5 or so right up to the finish.

Yeah, some horrific (and I do mean horrific) lopsided losses in there. But GU isn’t the 2017-2022 GU this year.

My heart says 81-77 Santa Clara in an absolute dogfight. CMJ lights the floor on fire with 8-11 shooting and 27 total. Caffaro gets told to foul out against Ike and obliges, keeping the Zag big man in check.

The day Herb Sendek allows any of our guys to foul out - is the day I’m nominated for Miss America.



FIRE throwback jerseys tonight


It would be great if we could have some of the players who wore those original jerseys on the court tonight. Maybe Nash to be the general and Zurek to be the banger.

Andy Karich’s daughter is on the soccer team… maybe he can borrow her access card?

Incidentally, GU has only played one true road game, a loss to Washington in Seattle.

Would probably need the jerseys (as well as shorts) to have rather plyable elastic bands. Toss in a halftime nap and I bet you’d get a couple takers from the 90’s.