Checking in on the… WCCPosted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009
Michael Chin is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.
So now here it comes, the premiere game we have been waiting for all season in the WCC: Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga (1/29 at 11pm EST on ESPN2). Both are ranked, both are undefeated in conference play, and both are really talented. So with that said lets break this sucker down:
Point Guard – Jeremy Pargo v. Patty Mills:
Advantage: Saint Mary’s
Analysis: A few months ago, most analysts had Pargo winning this matchup. At the time Jeremy was the more physical of the two guards and was believed to be farther along from a maturity standpoint. Fast forward and I think Patty, by many expert’s accounts, wins this matchup. From a draft potential standpoint, one has to say that Mills has the bigger upside, but just looking at the stats, the two are about even. Patty is far and away the more prolific scorer this season, averaging nearly 20 points a game. However Jeremy has over 100 assists and has a 2.76 assists to turnover ratio whereas Patty’s is 1:1. In two matchups last year Pargo beat Patty up with his more physical style of play. I don’t think he will be able to do that this year. Mills’ most improved asset this year has been on the defensive end of the floor. If Pargo holds Patty to under 15, he wins this matchup, as I believe the trio of Bouldin, Downs, and Gray could more than make up those points. However it Patty goes off for 25+, the Gaels have a good shot of scoring the upset
Shooting Guard – Matt Bouldin v. Carlin Hughes
Analysis: While Hughes has been on a recent hot streak, Bouldin still owns the edge in this matchup. While Carlin has more quickness and speed, Bouldin has a more consistent shot (.500 FG% and .382 3FG%) and is a bit bigger than Hughes. This matchup is not as lopsided as it would have been two months ago but given Bouldin’s experience, shotmaking ability and size advantage, Gonzaga wins this matchup.
Small Forward – Micah Downs v. Ian O’Leary
Analysis: This is going to be a very interesting matchup. Clearly Downs has an advantage from a skills standpoint, especially on the offensive end where the former Jayhawk has good range and a solid offensive skill set. Where Ian has the advantage though will be on the glass and defensively. If the Gaels can get him down to the low block he can overpower Downs.
Power Forward – Austin Daye v. Diamon Simpson
Analysis: These guys are really polar opposites, so it will be interesting to see whose game wins out. Zag fans surely believe that Austin is the more talented player and if you’re just talking skill set, than I agree. But Simpson is the classic workhorse. Really an undersized four, he plays with passion and heart. Simpson also has much more experience than the Irvine, CA, product. Also I like the fact that Diamon is athletic enough to come off the block and pay perimeter defense which will help as Daye is one of the deadliest snipers in the conference.
Center – Josh Heytvelt v. Omar Samhan:
Advantage: Saint Mary’s
Analysis: GU fans will hate me for saying this, but strictly speaking about the center post position, Omar may dominate the redshirt senior. Omar is far and away the most improved player in the conference. A year ago, the likes of Gyno Pomare and John Bryant absolutely “beasted” the San Ramon product. This year, Samhan had his way with both of them and even more than Patty Mills has been the biggest key to the Gaels’ success. He has been able to control the middle and limit any opponent’s inside threat, while averaging a double-double. He also leads the team in blocks (this is on a team where the leading shot blocker in school history [Diamon Simpson] is his teammate). It will be interesting to see how Josh is used in this game. I think many of his points may have to come from the outside. If he gets hot and can bring Omar outside the paint, GU may be able to neutralize the big man’s presence.
Backcourt Bench Players – Steven Gray, Meech Goodson v. Mickey McConnell and Wayne Hunter
Analysis: At this point Meech and Wayne cancel each other out. However, Gonzaga has a big advantage with Gray as their sixth man. If he is hot, he is instant offense off the bench (11 PPG) and provides good size at the two guard position. Also, don’t forget about Wayne Hunter. He is really the Gaels’ best defender and should see extended minutes at the two guard spot.
Frontcourt Bench Players – Robert Sacre, Ira Brown, Will Foster v. Ben Allen, Clint Stiendl, and Yusef Smith
Advantage: Saint Mary’s
Analysis: Depending on whether Sacre is still injured, this could be a big advantage for the Gaels or a near push. If Sacre can play 15 quality minutes than he will help out in dealing with the Simpson-Samhan duo. However, if he can’t go, the advantage clearly belongs to the Gaels. Allen and Yusef are big bodies who can also rebound. Stiendl, another Aussie, has seen extended action in the last two games and has given the Gaels an outside shooter off the bench.
While this is the most prepared a Saint Mary’s team has been to play in a hostile environment like the Kennel (away game victories against Oregon, Southern Illinois, Kent State and San Diego), McCarthy is a tough place to play at and because this is the premiere game at home, it will be rafter to rafter packed with Zag fans. While normally this would be a big advantage to GU, the Gaels are a senior laden team and the trio of Mills, Samhan, and Simpson have seen it all.