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It won’t be hard for Gonzaga to find Jordan Ford on Saturday night. Stopping the Saint Mary’s senior is another matter.
Braun Hartfield and the rest of his San Diego teammates had a rough night Jan. 9 in a 94-50 loss at home to Gonzaga. He bounced back quickly and ranks as one of the hotter players in the conference entering the rematch.
BYU played quite well without Yoeli Childs, but there’s no question the Cougars are a different – and better – team with the talented senior forward.
San Francisco has a quartet of quality guards capable of big nights, but Charles Minlend is the team’s top scorer.
Woolridge, who has been a standout defender all season and held star guards Payton Pritchard (Oregon) and Nico Mannion (Arizona) in check, wasn’t at his best at either end of the court against Pepperdine counterpart Colbey Ross.
Saint Mary’s has one of the top one-two punches in the country with senior guard Jordan Ford and junior forward Malik Fitts. We’ll pick Ford for the key matchup, but both present matchup issues.
We usually mix things up when Gonzaga faces a WCC foe for the second time, but not this time. Junior Eli Scott is the backbone of Loyola Marymount’s offense and the Zags’ primary concern.
It’ll be another challenging assignment for Gonzaga’s Ryan Woolridge, who did a nice job Thursday on Santa Clara’s Trey Wertz.
We went with forward Josip Vrankic two weeks ago when these teams met, so we’re going in a different direction with Trey Wertz for the rematch.
Pacific is led in nearly every way by senior Jahlil Tripp.
Senior guards TJ Haws and Jake Toolson are next in line, but we’ll go with Jake Toolson, a grad transfer from Utah Valley who played at BYU as a freshman.
Vrankic, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound junior, is coming off a breakout game with 22 points, including the game-winner with 9.4 seconds left in a 67-66 upset over Saint Mary’s last Saturday.
Loyola Marymount’s Eli Scott, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound junior, is listed as a guard/forward, but he does it all for the Lions.
Braun Hartfield has emerged as San Diego’s best offensive weapon. The wiry, 6-foot-6 junior wing is second to guard Joey Calcaterra’s 13.2 points, but Hartfield has produced 10 consecutive double-digit games while averaging 15.6 points.
Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross, a first-team, All-WCC selection last year, and grad transfer Ryan Woolridge, who continues to come up big when Gonzaga needs it most, is a must-watch matchup.
The Pilots are driven by guards/wings that account for five of the top six scorers. However, top two scorers Isaiah White and JoJo Walker have struggled over the last four games with the emergence of 5-foot-7 guard Chase Adams and 6-7 wing Takiula Fahrensohn
Gonzaga is heavily favored against Detroit Mercy, but the game offers at least one intriguing subplot: Sophomore guard Antoine Davis is one of the nation’s most prolific scorers.
Several options with EWU’s productive forward tandem of Kim Aiken Jr. and Mason Peatling, but we’re picking guard Jacob Davison.
It would be a major surprise if Anthony plays, forcing UNC and us to move on to Plan B. If Anthony is sidelined, the Tar Heels’ next-best scoring options become forwards Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot.
A big game calls for a bonus key matchup.