Gonzaga rolled over the Fightin' Mastodons of IPFW tonight, 90-55. At first glance, you'd think that the win solidifies the theory that the Zags are definitively better than the Cougs. After all, WSU only beat IPFW by a measly 19 points. The Zags had their game statistically buried wih 7:52 left; the Cougs finished theirs at the 6:40 mark. But a look at the four factors shows us it's not completely black and white:
First off, the Zags either are a much better defensive team than WSU, or IPFW just couldn't buy a bucket tonight. I'd wager it's a combination of both. One thing the Zags did much better against this opponent - in addition to shooting - was get to the foul line. Of course, when you have a guy go crazy out there like Klay Thompson did, it was unlikely the Cougars needed to force the issue and get to the stripe. The Coug/Mastodon game was a lot cleaner from a turnover standpoint, especially for WSU, and featured a lot more offensive rebounding. Considering how many shots IPFW missed against Gonzaga, it's pretty clear that the Zags - despite a lack of size similar to ours - are a better rebounding squad.
So what have we learned? Well, Gonzaga is good. If you didn't learn that from the road game at Michigan State, you can at least see it from the games against our common opponents (MVSU, IPFW). At this point I would say the Cougars venture up to Spokane in December as 7 to 10 point underdogs. Maybe more - we haven't seen WSU respond to the challenge of a formidable opponent yet. There's a chance the Cougs could have that opportunity in the Great Alaska Shootout. And when they do, they'll have an opportunity to either silence their doubters or create more of them.
Gonzaga's also balanced: four players went into double figures against IPFW versus one player for the Cougs (guess who). At this point GU fields a great young team, but like us, the emphasis is on young. There will be ups and downs for both squads. The collision the two finally have at the Kennel will tell us a lot about where both teams stand. Are the Cougs too deficient in talent to beat a legitimate Top 25 caliber team? Or are the Zags more likely to come back down and live up to the modest expectations set for them at the start of the year?
Again, this is just for fun, and it really can't give us a guarantee of how the showdown will actually turn out. Still, it's rare two rivals like this play the exact same opponent, one day removed, twice in the same year. It's as telling a comparison as you're going to find at this point in the early college basketball season.