UConn and Gonzaga have a chance to solidify themselves as national title contenders in this top-10 matchup. Can the Huskies wear down the Bulldogs in a cross-country trip?
TV schedule: Friday, December 15th, 10:00 pm ET, ESPN2
Arena: Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, WA
With finals and the holidays going on, it's been awhile since we've seen UCONN in action against a high-caliber team. Gonzaga, however, suffered a surprising road loss to a different Husky last Saturday. UCONN has continued to play one of the hardest non-conference schedules, racking up wins over Texas, Indiana and UNC, while suffering a close road loss to Kansas. Gonzaga is also battle tested, defeating UCLA and Syracuse, while losing to Purdue and Washington. Can Gonzaga use what should be a home crowd to shock UCONN?
The Huskies are one of the deepest, well-rounded teams in college basketball, and early on they have shown that they are absolutely a threat to repeat as national champions. Cam Spencer and Tristan Newton would already be one of the best 1-2 duos in college basketball, but adding Stephon Castle back into the mix makes this team nearly unguardable. Alex Karaban is the ultimate swiss army knife and Donovan Clingan commands the paint. Every time you watch UCONN you're left thinking, "can anyone actually beat these guys when it matters?"
Gonzaga is a really good team, but this is somewhat of a down year based on Mark Few's standards. Sure, they're ranked 10th in the country, but they have yet to beat a ranked opponent, with their best win coming against a decent USC team. In hindsight, the preseason polls that picked St. Mary's to win the WCC over them were wildly disrespectful, but they still aren't the juggernaut that we are used to. This should be an exciting game though, as both teams love to get out and run. Expect Nembhard and Hickman to try and step up, as Ike will most likely struggle down low with Clingan. Anton Watson will also need one of his better games of the year if the Zags want to come out on top.
UCONN should be able to win this game, maybe even handily, but it should also be one of the more exciting games of the young season. Seattle will be absolutely buzzing for two of the better scoring teams in the nation, and Gonzaga might be able to pull off the upset with crowd support, but I am willing to bet they wish this game were being played in their daunting home arena. All in all, I am excited for a back and forth game that I see UCONN winning in the end.
PREDICTION: UCONN: 84 Gonzaga: 75