Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
The Old Spice Classic tips off in Orlando on Thursday, and the day’s best quarterfinal could be the showdown between undefeated Gonzaga (2-0) and Oklahoma State (4-0). Neither team has been seriously tested thus far, but the Cowboys did take on a North Texas team that is expected to contend in the Sun Belt. Travis Ford is in his first season in Stillwater, and the handcuffs have been removed on the offensive end of the floor as a result. Five players are averaging double figures in scoring, led by sophomore James Anderson at 19.5 ppg.
In addition to Anderson, keep an eye on guards Terrel Harris and Byron Eaton, forming a trio that by season’s end could be pegged as the Big 12’s best backcourt (if they aren’t already). Oklahoma State isn’t afraid to hit the glass either, with their top three rebounders (Obi Muonelo, Anderson and Harris) all standing between 6-5 and 6-6. Ibrahima Thomas is the main man on the inside, and he’s going to have his hands full with Josh Heytvelt in this one.
Gonzaga is also a dangerous offensive team, with a number of options from just about anywhere on the floor. Point guard Jeremy Pargo leads the attack with an average of nine assists per game. He wasn’t called on to score much in wins over Montana State-Billings and Idaho, but he can get the job done by way of either a jump shot or drive to the basket. Forwards Heytvelt and Austin Daye lead the team in scoring and rebounding, while Steven Gray, Micah Downs and the versatile Matt Bouldin are right behind them. The matchup between Daye and Anderson should be fun to watch, with both being sophomores who tend to get lost in the shuffle behind Blake Griffin and James Harden in regards to national attention.
Looking at this game, the key player may indeed be Heytvelt, who’s looking to recover from a subpar 2007-08 campaign. Missing the back end of the previous season due to suspension definitely had an effect on his game and finding his comfort zone within Coach Few’s system, but it should be all systems go this time around. Look for the Bulldogs to win a close one and move on to Friday’s semifinals.
Winner: Gonzaga Margin: 3-7
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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