Friday, October 24, 2008

2008-09 Opponent Breakdown: Santa Clara University

Remember February 2nd, 2008? Gonzaga and Santa Clara played one of the most exciting games in WCC history a season ago in Santa Clara. If the game would have resulted in a Gonzaga loss, it would have been devastating to the Bulldogs' season. In all honesty, the game should have ended in a Santa Clara upset. After John Bryant blocked a shot in the final four seconds, all that was left was a simple in bounds pass to run the clock out. Sometimes though, the good teams even catch the breaks and Gonzaga caught a huge one. The pass was tipped in the back court and Steven Gray was plowed into by Brody Angley. Gray nailed the subsequent free throws and the game was sent into overtime and, at that point, Gonzaga had all the momentum. They went on to a 87-82 victory and the rest is history. That sort of game is something Gonzaga is hoping does not happen this season against the Broncos of Santa Clara but with the improvement the WCC has shown over the years, you just never know.

Last Season's Results: Last season was a struggle for Kerry Keating's squad. The Broncos finished the season 15-16 overall and were never able to gather enough momentum to put a run together. Gonzaga saw their potential first hand in that nail biting victory but other than that, the year was pretty rough for SCU. They went 6-8 in conference play and aside from games against Nevada, Stanford, and Minnesota, their non-conference schedule was not that demanding. The brightest spot on the team by far was John Bryant. The big man was dominant game in and game out. He led the team with 18 points a game and also added nearly ten rebounds. His efforts throughout the season were good enough to get him a spot on the All-WCC team. Brody Angley and Mitch Henke were the other two top performers for the Broncos last year. Both started every game for Santa Clara and averaged 11.5 and 9.7 points a game, respectively. Both have graduated and moved on from Santa Clara and it will be difficult for the Broncos to replace their production.

New Faces: Santa Clara will be bringing in five new recruits but the new face that they are most excited about is Decensae White. The transfer from Texas Tech will be eligible to play in December and should make an immediate impact for the Broncos. White played in 30 games during his freshman season at Texas Tech. Although only averaging five points, he scored in the double figures five times and showed that he could be a player in division one basketball. After playing a couple games his sophomore season, he decided to get out of Lubbock and head for California (can you blame him?). The 6'6'' forward should be a pleasure to watch live at the McCarthey Athletic Center. James Rahon, Marc Trasolini, Troy Alexander, Kevin Foster, and Perry Petty make up the rest of the 2008 recruiting class for Santa Clara. The standouts of the class will be James Rahon and Perry Petty. Petty is a junior college transfer and should add some experience to a young team. Rahon was rated as one of the top jump shooters in the West and can really light it up. He was receiving recruiting interest from Arizona before he signed on with Keating and the Broncos. Keating is also tapping into the Canadian pipeline with Marc Trasolini. Trasolini is a 6'8'' forward from Vancouver and many writers believed he was one of the top players in Canada during him time there. Look for him to make an impact this season. The strength of the new faces will be Decensae White but Keating's five new recruits should make his attempt to turn around the program much easier.

Players to Watch: The big fella in the middle will be the driving force on this team. Bryant will be relied on heavily this season and I think he will be able to carry the load. There is not player in the WCC that can match up with him physically. The transformation he has made since his freshman year at Santa Clara is mind-blowing. I never would have thought that he would wind up as a top player in the conference, but I was proven wrong. He really committed himself to trimming down and increasing his stamina and it has worked out beautifully. I wish Gonzaga had a player like him this season. If you put Bryant with Heytvelt, Sacre, and Daye the result could be an NCAA championship. I can't wait to watch Decensae White play for Santa Clara. He was one of the top players in California when he decided on Texas Tech and should really boost this program from jump street. He's a very fundamentally sound big man and any freshman that can start for Bobby Knight and survive is a stud in my book. I'm also interested to see how Scott Thompson, a 7'0'' red shirt freshman impacts the lineup. He was a very solid player in his high school days in Idaho and with that kind of size, you have to think he will work his way into the rotation.

TKR's Concern-O-Meter: For our home game with Santa Clara, it shouldn't be much of a contest. With the amount of talent we have, playing the Broncos at home should not be a challenge. With any WCC team, especially Santa Clara, St. Mary's, and San Diego, I always fear playing them on the road. It won't be a blowout when the Zags travel to Santa Clara just because it is the game that everyone circles on their schedule. St. Mary's and San Diego are on the ascent but there is no program with as rich a history as Gonzaga and that is why the rest of the WCC goes all out to beat the Zags. While I do believe that the Zags will pull both victories out, I know it will be a game in Santa Clara.

What We are Watching For: When Big John Bryant comes to town, you've got to watch him. There are few players in this conference that cause opposing teams bigger fits than the big man from Santa Clara. Gonzaga has no "beast" in the center. The status of Rob Sacre is still in the air and you just never know how those injuries will heal. Josh Heytvelt, while extremely talented, has never been confused for a banger. He has an outstanding face up game and is very versatile and has shown glimpses of playing tough in the post but you have to think that John Bryant likes the match up overall. I'm also excited to see how Few handles White. At 6'6'', I think we will see plenty of Ira Brown in this game. I'd expect a bigger lineup throughout the game just because of how good their front court is. You could see a lot of Austin/Micah at the three and Ira and Josh down low. This should be an exciting time for some interesting lineups from Few. Like many of Gonzaga's opponents this season, the front court match ups will be the main thing to watch for. The guard play for the Zags is just too talented and deep to make you think that any team can stop them. Pargo and the boys should give SCU's young back court fits all day.

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