Preview: Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Arizona Wildcats
Emily Muhleman is a sports blogger based in Seattle. She writes mostly about the NFL, the Pac-12, and the West Coast Conference. When she’s not writing about sports, she likes long walks on the beach in Olympic National Park.
This Sunday’s matchup between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Arizona Wildcats is expected to be an exciting affair. Gonzaga and Arizona are ranked #10 and #16 in the AP Poll, respectively, and each have exciting players that might just be NBA draft first-round picks next year.
The Zags are coming off six straight wins to start their season. Their last two games were against #21 Iowa State and Florida (who were unranked last week but now sit at #24), and winning a third straight game against a ranked, high-major opponent will only boost their confidence heading into the rivalry game against Washington. It will also help them make their case for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.
Arizona, on the other hand, had their own little run scuttled by the Butler Bulldogs. While the Wildcats are in the AP rankings right now, it isn’t exactly because of their strength of schedule. Their past four wins have come against Santa Clara, Northern Colorado, Sacred Heart, and Cal State Bakersfield. A win against a higher-ranked opponent, such as Gonzaga, could make a difference on Selection Sunday, especially with UCLA expected to run the table in the Pac-12.
While much has been said about both teams’ backcourts, the must-see matchup will be the one inside. Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski was projected to be a first-round pick this year, but opted to take another year of college eligibility after missing most of last season due to back injuries. This season, the seven-foot Pole is looking every bit the NBA player, averaging 11.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block per game. Facing him is the Finnish phenom, Lauri Markkanen, who is already being compared to the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis this early. Markkanen is averaging a team-high 18.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, and the contrast between Karnowski’s bruising inside game and Markkanen’s finesse will be intriguing to watch.