When the NCAA basketball selection committee meets in March to fill out its tournament bracket, Gonzaga’s seeding might very well come down to an 11-day stretch this month.
With the Bulldogs again favored to win the West Coast Conference, their resume is generally built early in the season.
No. 9 Gonzaga (9-1) will travel to Seattle on Sunday to meet No. 22 Washington (7-1).
The following Saturday, the Bulldogs will play at No. 12 Arizona, and then they are back home on Dec. 18 against No. 7 North Carolina.
“It’s going to be one of the best stretches we’ve ever had in the program,” senior forward Killian Tillie told the (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review. “We’re really excited for these games.”
Washington holds a 29-18 edge in the series that dates to 1910, but Gonzaga has won 12 of the past 13 meetings. That includes an 81-79 victory last season in Spokane, when Rui Hachimura made a jumper in the lane with 0.6 seconds remaining for the then-No. 1 Zags.
“We have UW on Sunday, and we have kind of a whole week off (until Arizona on Dec. 14), so that’s the main point, to make sure we’re all ready to go,” senior guard Admon Gilder, a transfer from Texas A&M, told the Spokesman-Review. “I think that’s a perfect stretch for us to get back rolling to how we were playing at the beginning of the year and go show guys what we’re made of.”
Gonzaga won its first eight games of the season before an 82-64 loss to Michigan in the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. The Bulldogs beat then-No. 11 Oregon 73-72 in overtime in the semifinals.
The Bulldogs rebounded from their lone loss with a 101-62 victory against visiting Texas Southern on Wednesday as junior forward Corey Kispert scored 17 points, leading seven Gonzaga players in double figures.
Sophomore Filip Petrusev, a 6-foot-11 forward from Serbia, leads Gonzaga with 15.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Washington has faced a less-demanding nonconference schedule. The Huskies opened with a 67-64 victory against then-No. 16 Baylor in the Armed Forces Classic in Anchorage, Alaska, and took a 75-62 loss to Tennessee in the James Naismith Classic in Toronto. They’ve played the rest of their games at home, going 6-0.
The Huskies defeated Eastern Washington 90-80 on Wednesday as Quade Green, a sophomore point guard who transferred from Kentucky, had 20 points and eight assists and freshman forward Jaden McDaniels added 17 points before fouling out.
Freshman forward Isaiah Stewart, who like Green and McDaniels was a McDonald’s All-American in high school, leads the Huskies with averages of 16.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game.
“It’s here now,” Green told the Seattle Times of facing Gonzaga. “This (Eastern Washington) game is over, and they’re our next game. So of course, we got to focus on them right now.
“I know they beat us last year. That’s all I need to know. I just know we lost to them last year and it’s a rivalry game, so we got to win.”
–Field Level Media