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Columnists | Message Board  | Jeff Borzello's Blog

By Jeff Borzello

December 27th, 2005


Game of the Week: Gonzaga at Memphis

Tuesday December, 27th - ESPN, 7:00

The obvious choice for this week’s Game of the Week is Gonzaga at Memphis, potentially the second-most hyped game this season (next to the dud that was Duke-Texas). Both are ranked in the Top 10 of the polls, and are #2 and #3 in the RPI rankings, respectively. These teams are not likely to face a tough challenge in conference play, given that Memphis should run through Conference-USA and Gonzaga has absolutely no competition in the West Coast Conference. The Tigers are 9-1, with their lone loss a narrow, 3-point defeat at the hands of Duke. Had they hit one of their many three-point attempts in the second half, they would have beaten the Blue Devils. They have won six straight since that game, and own wins over UCLA, Alabama, Cincinnati—the latter two on the road. They are averaging over 86 points per game, good enough for fourth in the country, and giving up just under 71. Gonzaga is 9-2, although have struggled against inferior competition lately. Still, their only two losses are a 2-point defeat to Connecticut on a last-second basket by Denham Brown, and a 4-point loss on the road to Washington. The Bulldogs have wins over Maryland and Michigan State on neutral courts and Oklahoma State at home. They are putting up 78 points per game and giving up 72. This game is going to be high-scoring and should be closer than the aforementioned Duke-Texas game.
Memphis is the most athletic team in the country and is also one of the toughest teams to defend. When I went to Madison Square Garden and saw them play Duke, I thought that they were more impressive than the Blue Devils. I still feel that way. The Tigers are unbelievable in the open-court, are long on defense, and create match-up problems at both ends of the floor. They have five freshmen in their first nine, to go with three sophomores and a senior. This is a young team. Rodney Carney (17.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.0 spg) is the best sixth man to come along in years. He is the most athletic player in the nation, and is nearly impossible to guard on offense. In addition, Carney is a lock-down defender, as evidenced by his holding of JJ Redick to a scoreless second half. He had 37 points and 10 rebounds off the bench against Louisiana Tech last game. Darius Washington (14.1 ppg, 3.9 apg, 41% 3pt) is one of the best point guards in the nation, when healthy. Unfortunately, he has been hampered by a right thigh contusion and has missed two games as a result of it. He is probable for this game. Washington is a very good one-on-one player and can distribute the ball well. He is also a solid three-point shooter. The other two non-freshman that see double-figure minutes are starting post man Joey Dorsey (6.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg) and backup point guard Andre Allen (4.2 ppg, 2.2 apg, 1.8 spg). Dorsey is an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, who can also get a couple of buckets per game down low. Allen has been a major asset for John Calipari and the Tigers. When Washington is unable to play, he steps in and performs admirably. He is a good defender and can take his man off the dribble and then distribute to the scorers. The freshmen group for Memphis is led by Shawne Williams (16.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.7 spg, 1.4 bpg), the best freshman in the country. He is an all-around player who scores on one end and collects rebounds, blocks, and steals on the other. Williams is very difficult to defend one-on-one due to his quickness and athletic ability. Wings Antonio Anderson (8.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 44% 3pt) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (10.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg) start on the perimeter. Douglas-Roberts is athletic and can score, mainly from inside the arc. Anderson is a good scorer and passer who can stroke the three with efficiency. Center Kareem Cooper (7.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg) provides a big body down low, but is out another week or so with a stress fracture. Robert Dozier (4.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg), a lanky big man, is a very good rebounder who can also score when needed.     
Gonzaga is one of the best all-around teams in the country that can beat you from many positions on the floor. They have clutch players, guys that can shoot the three, post scorers, and the best player in the country. They are a definite national title contender. The aforementioned “best player in the country” is Adam Morrison (27.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.5 spg). I would take him over Duke’s JJ Redick any day of the week. He is leading the country in scoring and is a good rebounder. Morrison has the best mid-range ability to come across the college game in years. He is also the most clutch player in the nation right now, as evidenced by big shots against Oklahoma State, Washington, Michigan State, and others. He has two 43-point games this season. On the inside, JP Batista (19.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.1 spg) is one of the best, not to mention underrated, big men in college basketball. He is a load to stop in the paint and rarely takes a bad shot down low. In addition, Batista is an above-average rebounder. He had 22 points and 13 rebounds against All-American Paul Davis and Michigan State. Point guard Derek Raivio (12.8 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.0 spg) is the consummate floor general for the Bulldogs. He rarely turns the ball over, and can shoot the three very well. He is also second the country in free-throw percentage at over 96%. Wing Errol Knight missed the first eight games of the season, and has played very limited minutes in the past three, but should see more floor time against Memphis due to his outstanding defensive ability and athleticism. Forward Sean Mallon (6.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg) is a nice complement to Batista down low. He can score on occasion and is a solid rebounder. 6-6 David Pendergraft (3.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg) comes off the bench to backup the forwards. He is a decent rebounder and can get a few buckets here and there. Wing Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes (3.8 ppg, 2.4 apg) has been the starter for much of the season. He is a very good defender who does not shoot the ball much. Freshman Jeremy Pargo (4.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 spg) is a solid sixth man for the Bulldogs. He is very quick and athletic and can score fairly well. Pargo is a good defender and leads the team in assists. He is also surprisingly effective rebounding the ball.
This has the potential to be one of the best games of the season, as well as a Final Four or Elite Eight preview. Both teams should go deep in the Tournament and each have the weapons to win it all. This matchup has some excellent individual match-ups, none more so than Rodney Carney and Adam Morrison. Carney uses his athleticism to get points, while Morrison is a crafty, mid-range scorer. Carney has shut down JJ Redick, and will have to do so again with Morrison. That is going to be an excellent match-up. Darius Washington and Derek Raivio are going to play key roles at the point guard position. Whoever gets the edge in that match-up could lead their team to victory. Inside, JP Batista has a huge advantage against the post players of Memphis, while Shawne Williams has a big edge at forward for Memphis. When it comes down to it, Memphis has more weapons and will use their one-on-one players to get penetration and easy baskets on the offensive end. Defensively, Carney will do his best to contain Morrison, and the Tigers will use their pressure to disrupt Raivio and force turnovers. The balance and athleticism of Memphis will be the difference in the game.
Prediction: Memphis 84, Gonzaga 80
Last week’s West Virginia-Oklahoma Game of the Week brought me to a horrid 0-4 for the season. Oklahoma’s perimeter players did not perform well, and the Sooners could not defend West Virginia. Of course, the Mountaineers shooting 66% from the field did not hurt them. I did not foresee their lights-out shooting. Hopefully, the Christmas break rejuvenated my picking prowess, and I will get my first win of the season this week.


Check out Jeff Borzello's March Madness All Season blog for detailed coverage of the college game on a daily basis.




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