Friday, November 28, 2008

Zags, Terps Clash in Second Round of Old Spice Classic

When: November 28, 2008 @ 2:30 PM PST
Where: The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports. Orlando, FL
Betting Line: Gonzaga by 5 1/2

If you would have told me that Gonzaga would be playing Maryland today, I'm not sure I would have reacted too well. Michigan State was the highest ranked team to enter the Old Spice Classic but the Terrapins were able to knock them off in a game that turned into a rout. The Spartans never really found any sort of rhythm and were hamstrung by a number of injuries as well as early foul trouble by their star player, Raymar Morgan. Give credit to the Terps though, they had some outstanding performances led by Greivis Vasquez, Dave Neal, and Eric Hayes who did a little bit of everything.

Maryland now looks to upset another top-10 team in Gonzaga. These two teams are not very familiar with each other. The last time they matched up was in 2005's Maui Invitation which saw No. 8 Gonzaga defeat the Terps in an opening round game.

Maryland is actually a pretty similar team to the one Gonzaga just defeated. Like Oklahoma State, they have some excellent guards who, for the most part, carry this team. They are led by Greivis Vasquez who is a star for this team because of his amazing combination of size and quickness. At 6'6'', Vasquez will be one of the biggest guards the Zags see all year and could present match up problems in this game. I'd look for Mark Few to put Micah Downs on him and try to frustrate him with his length. I'm not sure if Micah has the quickness to keep up with Vasquez throughout the game. Meech Goodson could match his speed but gives up a lot with his stature. The key with Vasquez is to get him out of his comfort zone. He is notorious for having great games but also have turnover filled games where he makes some questionable decisions. He had 149 turnovers last year and had three against Michigan State which led the team. He's an outstanding talent, but if Gonzaga can force him to take bad shots they will win this game.

Gonzaga had an awful first half of basketball last night but still managed to stay in the game. They can't do that again today and expect to hang around. The Cowboys were a transitioning team but the Terps have one of the best coaches in the land and will bury Gonzaga if they play poorly. The major key for the Zags is for Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye to play more than 30 minutes and be in the top three in rebounding when the game is over. They each played less than 25 minutes yesterday because they were saddled with early fouls. Maryland likes to play small and get out and pressure you and Gonzaga has to slow it down and pound the Terps.

Another key for Gonzaga is free throws. Missing 13 free throws last night was something that is inexcusable for this team. It's a quiet gym with a pretty quiet audience in attendance so the noise should not be an issue. I look for this problem to be solved relatively quickly because I don't think that Austin, Matt, and Josh will continue to miss free throws. Going along with the free throw shooting, I'm looking for Austin and Josh to get to the line a little more. Daye only went to the line once and Josh missed all three of his free throws. These two really have to be dominant for Gonzaga to win this game.

Bouldin and Pargo seemed to shoot their way out of their early game slumps last night and at the end of the game, Matt and Jeremy were two of our best offensive weapons. I'm hoping that Steven can come out and shoot the lights out. His three point shooting adds such a great feature to Gonzaga. If he comes out and makes a few early on, Steven Gray can lead this team in scoring and really change the course of the game. I'm hoping Meech gets a few more minutes against this fast Maryland lineup. He looked outstanding last night and only had one mental error on the inbounds pass which was called for five seconds. His defense should come in handy as well as his ability to push the tempo when Jeremy and him are on the court together.

It should be a very exciting game today in Orlando. If Gonzaga plays forty minutes of basketball the way they played in the last ten minutes against Oklahoma State, they will win the ball game. If our post players get in foul trouble early and we are forced to go small, it could be a long day for Gonzaga.

My prediction: 87-78 Gonzaga Wins

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