The Arizona Wildcats head into the Battle in Seattle with two of the best games of the season in their belts, but the challenge against a mysterious Gonzaga team that's not traveling too far from home is just another test for Sean Miller's club.
Mysterious is the word of choice because any face of Mark Few's Bulldogs could show up.
It could be the team that at one point led the Washington State Cougars by 21 points early in the season, or perhaps the same Bulldog squad that squandered that lead before winning 89-81.
Will the Gonzaga team that smashed Notre Dame arrive in Seattle, the same one that played two Big Ten teams -- undefeated Illinois and athletically-gifted Michigan State -- to single-digit losses? Or the one that took a tough upper-cut to the chin from a so-so Oral Roberts team before coming out with a 67-61 victory heading into today's match-up?
OK, that's probably reading into it too much.
Whatever the case may be, the 6-2 Bulldogs will challenge the 7-3 Wildcats on the perimeter and in the post.
It won't be easy for Arizona.
Bulldog center Robert Sacre is an imposing 7-foot senior who leads the team with 15.5 points and is second on the Zags with 7.5 rebounds per game. With Miller electing to play small ball in the past two games with Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill manning the paint, it's up in the air whether the Wildcats' head coach will force a fast-paced game with a small lineup once again rather than giving big men Kyryl Natyazhko or Angelo Chol a chance in the starting crew.
And in the backcourt, today's game will see two of the more talented freshmen points in the nation go at it. Josiah Turner, starter or not, will get his first chance at going head-to-head with an elite young point in Canadian Kevin Pangos.
Pangos, at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, is averaging 13.1 points and 3.1 assists per game and shooting 42 percent beyond the arc. Against the Cougars in November, he dropped 33 points and six assists in his national coming-out party.
Turner and his backcourt mates will likely not let him get hot.
Arizona's made it's mark by locking down perimeter players in its past two games, but it's still a legitimate concern for Miller's club. With so much emphasis on running out to contest 3-pointers -- Miller hates giving up 3s -- Sacre and 6-foot-7, 240-pound power forward Elias Harris could do some damage inside without the help of double teams.
Harris is putting up 12 points and seven boards per game, and the Zags' size and toughness in the interior will be the looming question mark against Arizona. Though as a unit it's statistically not a strong rebounding team, Gonzaga could and should dominate the paint, as did Patric Young for the Florida Gators.
Should Few emphasize getting the ball into the paint and not let his guards launch 3s, it'll be a tough win for Arizona.
That said, a win in Seattle will make a huge impression on the selection committee come March. Beating a borderline top-25 squad is an important resume builder, and with the Wildcats showing drastic improvement in the past two games, it's a golden opportunity for a the first signature win of the season.