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NCAA Tournament preview: Saint Mary’s compares Arizona’s size to Gonzaga

Maybe a good thing for the Wildcats?

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga vs Arizona Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Just like the Arizona Wildcats, the Saint Mary’s Gaels have only lost four times this season and went 16-2 in conference play. Three of those losses for SMC came at the hands of the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

When Arizona faced Gonzaga in L.A. back in December, one thing that stood out was how the Zags were able to have their way in the paint.

Well, the Gaels think the Wildcats are similar to Gonzaga down low.

“They’re pretty similar size-wise,” Calvin Hermanson explained. “Both teams have pretty good inside attack. Gonzaga did a pretty good job against us scoring down low, and obviously Arizona has got some big size down low as well, so we’re going to try and limit their points in the paint. I’d say that’s where they’re most similar probably.”

“We’ve seen teams with this size before,” SMC head coach Randy Bennett added about Arizona’s size. “BYU’s big and Gonzaga’s big. Gonzaga’s real big. So it’ll be like that. It’s not like it’s gonna be something we haven’t seen. But they’re more than that. Their guards are good.”

The player of the game for the Gaels on Thursday was 6-foot-11 center Jock Landale, who put up 18 points and 13 rebounds against VCU. Considering Arizona has had troubles defending inside, this seems like a problem on the surface.

“We’ll need our depth inside,” Bennett said. “They have good depth inside and they’re good inside, and I’m sure they have a plan on how they’re going to defend Jock and our bigs, but we’ll adjust to it. The concepts of how they’re gonna defend, we’ve seen it all.”

It’s certainly not only the bigs that get to the basket for Arizona, but the guards also slash very effectively, which seemed like Landale’s weakness against VCU. And that’s something the Gaels know they’ll have to improve on if they are to make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

“We let VCU get to the paint too much and get shots around the rim,” Joe Rahon said about what SMC will have to fix from Thursday’s game. “We know that’s something that Arizona likes to do. All their guards are really good at getting to the basket — they’re big and strong and can finish in traffic — so that’s something that we’re going to have to clean up for sure.”

Saint Mary’s will need to be able to get the ball in the low block on offense and have some semblance of rim protection on defense to get through this round. If they can do that, this game will be close. If not, well, Arizona will be moving on to San Jose.

Arizona and Saint Mary’s are scheduled to tip-off at approximately 4:45 PM PT on Saturday.