Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Portland Pilots Preview and Pick

No. 18 Gonzaga Bulldogs 10, O/U 134.5 (16-4) 10-8 ATS, 8-10 O/U at Portland Pilots + 10, O/U 134.5 (15-7) 14-5 ATS, 10-8 O/U Thursday, February 5, 2009 Portland, Oregon, Chiles Center (4,852) 11:00 EST (8:00 Pacific) TV: ESPN2
By Wilson of Predictem.com

The West Coast Conference has steadily climbed into the big-time world of college basketball. But for the WCC its not all about the Zags anymore, yet they are the ranked team in tonights showdown. What? Theyre other teams worth mentioning in this mid-major conference that strings along the west coast like a loose noodle searching for identity! Teams like the Portland Pilots, Saint Marys Gaels and the San Diego Toreros have all made their mark as of late. For Portland, it has been their best WCC start in school history. Will the Pilots take down the all-mighty Bulldogs of Gonzaga? They just might!

Portland has won their last six games and even added an explanation point last Saturday by whipping then-ranked Saint Marys 84-66 at the Chiles Center. They also beat a strong San Diego Toreros team two nights earlier 69-55. Portlands win over Saint Marys marked the first victory over a ranked team since 1981 and bumped their home record to 10-1 on the season.

Gonzaga has won eight consecutive games and are ranked No. 18 in the country. The Bulldogs are not easily intimidated as they traditionally play one of the toughest non-league schedules in the country; in fact, they face Memphis on Saturday in Spokane. However, there is something to be said about conference play especially with first place on the line on the road! The Bulldogs handled the Pilots in their last meeting 67-50 in Spokane.

Senior center Josh Heytvelt leads the Zags in scoring with 14.4 points per game coupled with 6.8 rebounds. But the Bulldogs have several weapons on and off the floor (bench). Junior guard Matt Bouldin was recently named the WCC Player of the Month for January as he is averaging 13.1 points per game. The reining WCC player of the year, Jeremy Pargo, is putting up 9.3 ppg and a league leading 5.6 assists. Sophomore forward, Austin Daye is a deadly shooter but also an excellent all-around player and he contributes 13 points per game as well. The bottom line for any team facing the Bulldogs is they will have to play serious defense.

The Pilots are feeling like theyve never felt before- like a contender! They are bringing a much needed spark to the WCC after years of Gonzaga dominance, sure there have been teams that have tested the Zags but its nice to have yet another strong well coached club in the conference.

Pilot guard Nick Raivio was named WCC player of the week after scoring 27 points against Saint Marys and 17 versus San Diego. Raivio leads the Pilots in scoring and is fourth in the league at 16.5 ppg. Portland averages 70.7 points per contest and allows 67 to their opponents.

Portland leads the league and ranks seventh nationally in 3-point shooting percentage (.406). The Pilots also lead in 3-point shots made (7.9) and assists (15.0). So the Bulldogs will have their hands full as well tonight as both of these teams can fill it up.

This game has all the hype of a first place battle and should please the fans. The Pilots head coach Eric Reveno said that one of the main focuses for the program was to improve in the weight room and that has definitely proved to be a positive result as many player added muscle or dropped extra pounds. Portland has a real chance to be No. 1 in the WCC after tonights game. Will they spoil the Zags road trip?

Wilsons Pick: Portland 69, Gonzaga 66! The Bulldogs are extremely talented but they have not convinced me that they can play consistent, winning hoops! I know they won by 17 at home against these Pilots but I really feel like the Pilots have all the momentum tonight. Bulldogs fall in a barn-burner! Luck to ya.