After a slow start to the season (started 4-5) the Zags have turned it on and won 4 in a row including one over then #9 Baylor to bring their record to 8-5. But outside of the record, they are basically a mirror image of the Cowboys... or at least there are enough similarities that it becomes an easy trope to use to write a game preview. The Zags are powerful down low behind 7'0 Center Robert Sacre and 6'8 Forward Elias Harris while the guards are a bunch of wildcards (especially at the point) and they have a lot of unproven, young, athletic wing players that come off the bench.... sound familiar?
An important factor in this game will be if guard Stephen Gray will be healthy and have an impact. Gray is the Zags leading scorer and really stretches defenses with his outside shooting (42% from three this season). He has been suffering from back spasms since collapsing during the Baylor game on 12/18 and has seen minimal action over the last two games. Without Gray, the Zags lose their main outside threat and instead have to look to this German dude named Mathis Monninghoff to provide most of the three point shooting. Although, if you have to turn to someone to take the place of your best player... you could do a lot worse than a German that I assume goes by the nickname, "The Hoff".
The Zags will try to pound it down low to the their meat inside (gross),and try to work an inside out game to get the guards going. With the weakness of this Gonzaga team being the guard play, the Darrell Williams trap (as it will now be called) should prove very valuable. If the bigs can continue to execute that trap play the Zags will get flustered and turn the ball over.. they currently average 16 turnovers a game.
On the offensive end, the Cowboys will be trying to get Moses the ball early in the low post or near the free throw line where he can either run through his arsenal of post moves or get doubled and hopefully find where it came from and hit an open Cowboy. And speaking of the Moses double team, if the Cowboys have done anything with the past week off i hope it was at least 75% focused on beating that double...because I am sure we will see plenty of it yet again.
All things considered, if the Zags of the last 4 games show up than this is definitely the toughest matchup the Pokes have seen this season.... but it is still a very winnable game. Vegas thinks the Zags are 5 points better than the Pokes, but that line would shift to about even if the game weren't in Spokane. This won't be the first time the Cowboys have been in a hostile environment, so they shouldn't be too flustered by the road trip... a Cowboy victory will end up coming down to controlling the paint and the boards (no easy task with Sacre and Harris down there), forcing turnovers (a very manageable task), beating the Moses double team, and of course, not getting hooked on a feeling.
For the other side of things check out the SB Nation Gonzaga site The Slipper Still Fits, who have in fact confirmed for me that their German dude is referred to as "The Hoff".