Scouting Report: Here comes Gonzaga

The Wildcats and Bulldogs have been two of the best teams in the West. Gonzaga is making its fifth straight tournament appearance and is searching for a fourth trip to the Sweet-16. The Cats are simply trying to furhter establish themselves as a premier program, not only in the west, but in all of college basketball.

No. 1 Seed Arizona (26-3) at No. 9 Seed Gonzaga (23-8)
NCAA West Region Second Round
Date: Saturday, March 22, 2003
Time: 3:40 p.m. MST
Location: Jon M. Huntsman Center (15,000), Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg/Matt Goukas)

LAST TIME OUT: Arizona cruised past Vermont 80-51. The Bulldogs won a tough won, edging Cincinnati 74-69.

LAST MEETING: In the only meeting between the two schools, the Wildcats beat Gonzaga 101-87 in 2001.

BACKCOURT: Essentially the Zags like to use three guards. Although Tony Skinner is listed as a small forward but he is essentially a perimeter-based player. Gonzaga is athletic and the guards will dictate the tempo.

Blake Stepp is the key. The 6-4 junior has assumed the point guard role after the departure of Dan Dickau and has done a good job at running this offense. Stepp is a good outside shooter who has never shown fear in pulling the trigger. Five times this season he has attempted 10 or more threes, but the team is not always successful when they do so. For the season he is hitting 41.5% of his outside shots, but has had a number of off nights, including going 2-11 in the conference tournament final against San Diego. Stepp has been a great passer his whole college career and he saw his assist total jump since he has become a full-time point guard.

Joining Stepp in the backcourt is senior Winston Brooks. The 6-0 Brooks is speedy, but not much of a threat as a scorer. Despite starting 26 games, the senior has not reached double figures this season or at any other time in his career.

Kyle Bankhead is really the first and only guard off the bench. No other guard sees more than spot minutes. Bankhead is a good shooter who is a step slower than Stepp or Brooks. Bankhead is a gritty, hard working player who gives his all on both ends of the floor.

JC transfer Tony Skinner has been a pleasant surprise for the Bulldogs. It took him awhile to get acclimated to the system, but since he has he's been a key contributor. Skinner has been deadly or late from the outside, hitting 9-12 threes in the last four games.

Jason Gardner's shooting woes continue, but everything else is clicking. The senior has been a beast on the boards and has been great at finding the open man.

While Gardner has been struggling, Salim Stoudamire has not. The sharpshooter has been finding the bottom of the net and is doing a great job getting into the lane.

Hassan Adams and Chris Rodgers come off the bench. Adams provides an offensive spark, while Rodgers is a great defender.

FRONTCOURT: Both clubs are solid up-front. The Bulldogs have three quality post players and all three log key minutes. 6-10 Ronny Turiaf is coming off a 22 point performance. He shot poorly, but got to the line 22 times. Physically he is very similar to Channing Frye, but is not as talented offensively although he is a tad stronger. Turiaf is aggressive on the glass and runs the floor very well.

Cory Violette has been coming off the bench since at the end of the season and is getting over an ankle sprain. Violette is a strong player who can give the Wildcats trouble. At 255 he isn't afraid to bang and hits the boards hard. He had a good day against the Bearcats and will be used to pound on the thinner Wildcat post players.

Zach Gourde is another strong frontline player for Gonzaga. The senior has started in place of Violette but logged just 16 minutes on Thursday. He isn't a polished scorer and isn't the presence on the boards he could be, but he works hard and will mix it up.

The Arizona frontline players are not as physical as the Bulldogs, but are more skilled and versatile. Channing Frye is on a tear. He has been a force offensively and has been aggressive on the glass. His hook shot has been dead-on and he can step out and hit the jumper. Frye does struggle when knocked around, especially when the officials call it loose, so you can bet Gonzaga will try to put a body on him.

Rick Anderson is another inside outside player for the Cats. The senior is just as deadly behind the arc as he is in the paint. Anderson is thin, but will get in there and mix it up if he has to. Anderson had 13 points and nine boards against Vermont and had a career game (23 and 11) in the loss to UCLA.

Luke Walton starts at small forward, but will slide over and play key minutes inside. Walton is a great passer from up top, so the dynamic changes when he plays the four. Walton is the strongest front line player the Wildcats have and can take a pounding. He will take smaller players inside and bigger players are forced to play him on the edge.

Andre Iguodala spells Walton at the three and Adams can play there. Isiah Fox will see spot time down low, but the Cats prefer to slide Walton inside as the first option.

OUTLOOK: Gonzaga is certainly tournament tested, but have their hands full with the Wildcats. The Zags like to get up and down the floor, but will likely slow it up against one of the nation's top scoring teams. Expect Gonzaga to play physical, especially with Frye. They need to get hot from the perimeter and free up Turiaf inside. The Wildcats need to get focused. They played sloppy against Vermont, but could afford to bring their "B" game against the Catamounts. If the Wildcats rediscover their "A" game against Gonzaga, they win. If they struggle or are unfocused, then the Bulldogs could make it very interesting and even pull off the upset.

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