Colonial's Scouting Report: Maui

Gonzaga plays Rick Majerus' Utah Utes to open the Maui Classic, then will play either Indiana or UMass the next day. The following is a brief summary of these three teams.


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The Gonzaga Bulldogs meet the Utah Utes in the nightcap of the first round of the prestigious Maui Invitational Classic, a premier 8-team tournament on the Hawaiian island. Both teams opened their seasons with victories, GU over Hofstra and Utah over Southern Utah. These were basically tune-ups for this tournament.

Utah head coach Rick Majerus is regarded as one of the best basketball coaches in the country, particularly when it comes to big men. And it just so happens that the main key to the Utes' success is 6'8" do everything Forward Britton Johnson. The 2002 Mountain West Player of the Year is a talented multidimensional player, just as adept on the perimeter as he is on the inside.

Joining Johnson in Utah's frontcourt is University of Portland transfer Tim Frost, a solid post player who the Zags have met before in WCC action. These two are the anchors of the frontline, both scoring in the mid-teens in 30 minutes against Southern Utah, with Johnson pulling down 11 rebounds for a double-double.

Majerus has assembled a relatively tall and athletic backcourt that could pose matchup problems for many teams. Nick Jacobson, Tim Drisdom and Trace Caton are all over 6'3" and all are three-point threats. These three scored well in the Utes' opener. Newcomers Frost and true freshmen Drisdom and two other frosh have added immediate help for the Utes.

Expect to see a highly disciplined and patient Utah team on offense that will pass as crisply as any team to find a weakness or mistake in the defense. On defense, Utah will be as fundamentally sound as any team Gonzaga has ever faced.

This will most likely be a low scoring and close affair.

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few will try to counter by pushing the ball hard upcourt with his point guards yet exercise patience and smarts. With Gonzaga's depth in the frontcourt, look for the Zags to attempt to pound it down low to its big men in hopes of exploiting Utah's bigs.

But that strategy won't work if the guards fail to consistently hit shots to keep the defense honest.

Defensively, it will be of paramount importance to shut down Utah's perimeter game and limit Britton Johnson's production. If Gonzaga can execute an energized defense and click on offense, the Bulldogs have a chance.

UMass will open its 2002-03 season in Maui and second-year head coach Steve Lappas is expecting a big improvement over last year's sub .500 record. UMass was a young, inexperienced group last year but all the important pieces are back with a year's maturity under their belts.

Boasting plenty of size, led by lone senior 6'11" Micah Brand, and athleticism, Lappas will employ a rugged, sticky man defense that can disrupt opponents with a fast-moving, slashing offense that is seemingly always operating on hyper.

Still young with only one senior, UMass is not green anymore. There are high expectations at the New England school and a run at the Atlantic-10 title with Xavier, Temple and St. Joseph's is a realistic goal. Last year Gonzaga and UMass shared one common foe, St. Joseph's. The Hawks beat UMass twice and the Zags nipped the Hawks by three.

No team at Maui will play harder than UMass.

For Gonzaga to have a shot at beating UMass, offensive execution will have to be at a high.

It didn't take Mike Davis long to lead his Indiana Hoosiers back to where Bobby Knight had taken them years ago: to the National Championship game. And even though IU lost to Maryland, they earned the basketball world's respect and made a statement that Hoosier basketball was back.

What stood out last March was deadly three-point shooting mixed with an efficient inside game. Jared Jeffries and a couple sharpshooters are gone now but senior point guard and sniper Tom Coverdale has plenty of help stepping up, most notably senior guard Kyle Hornsby.

6'8" Jeff Newton is looking to make Hoosier fans forget about Jeffries and freshmen Marshall Strickland and Bracey Wright are blue chippers who are expected to impact immediately.

Indiana has always played blue collar basketball. Quite simply, Indiana is synonymous with college basketball. Even the best basketball movie ever made bears Indiana's name. The Hoosiers should contend for the Big-10 crown with Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The game plan for Gonzaga will have to be perimeter defense and letting the GU bigs work inside. If IU is not guarded closely outside and catches fire, it could be a long game for the Zags. Stopping fast break spot-up opportunities by Coverdale, Hornsby, et al, will be a must.


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