BYU Basketball has one of their biggest game of the season coming up Thursday (9 p.m. MST on ESPN2) against the no. 1-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs.
I teamed up with Peter Woodburn from Slipper Still Fits to bring you answers to some hard-hitting questions ahead of the matchup. Okay, not all of them are hard-hitting. I definitely had him rank hair (duh). But he also gives us score predictions, tells us why Gonzaga gels so well plus more! Hear much more from Peter in this week’s episode of Cougs on Cougs.
VTF: BYU has one of the youngest teams in the country. Gonzaga’s team isn’t so old itself, and has quite a few transfers to boot. How is your hodgepodge team melding together so beautifully?
Peter Woodburn: The Zags have been building to this point for quite some time. Gonzaga has been a landing point for a few big name transfers in the past couple of years (hello Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley), and I think the coaching staff has learned from those experiences.
The big thing, however, is that the Gonzaga coaching staff focuses on team building exercises and making sure these guys are all each other's best friends--a lot. Prior to the start of this season, they went on a retreat that didn't involve basketball at all, but things about leadership qualities and teamwork. It may seem corny, but that is how the chemistry is perfectly in step this season.
VTF: Since our Eric Mika looks so much like Rocky’s Ivan Drago… Who are you putting in the ring with him? Does Karnowski or Mika take the boxing match?
Peter Woodburn: I think Mika would. Karnowski is just too nice of a guy to punch someone in the face. I hope Mika doesn't kill Karnowski in the ring though...
VTF: The number one ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. It just kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? You kind of alluded to it on Cougs on Cougs but does being number one scare you? It’s a bit of a taboo position to be in this year.
Peter Woodburn: I think No. 1 puts a huge target on the team's back, and it is up to the team to really figure out how to manage that. Already, just being the Zags, the squad has to deal with an increased level of hostility in the WCC, with a lot of the schools screen-printing their special "Beat the Zags blah blah blah" shirts and usually packing in more people than a standard game.
So, in a way, Gonzaga is used to this. Also, what might help is that two players on this squad are holdovers from 2013's squad: Przemek Karnowski and uber-bench hype man Rem Bakamus. I can't think of two better players to pull wisdom from, and hopefully they will keep them grounded. If anything, the coaching staff has done a great job keeping this squad grounded, and I think last year had a lot to do with that. Remember, the Zags weren't totally off the bubble last year and the NCAA streak was in jeopardy. That win at BYU (thanks!) in the final game of the regular season helped jumpstart the run through the WCC Tournament.
A lot of the players on this year's squad experienced that run, and I think they have very legitimately adopted the "one game at a time" mentality.
VTF: We have to ask this because it is Cougs on Cougs’ thing: Can you rank your starting fives’s haircuts in order from worst to best?
Peter Woodburn: No. 1 is Przemek Karnowski because as a Pacific Northwesterner with a beard that is often times too long and unkempt, I appreciate the big man's devotion to his face.
No. 2 is Josh Perkins, because he has let his hair grow out this season, keeping in the long tradition of guards with long hair (Kevin Pangos, Matt Bouldin, Dan Dickau, etc).
No. 3 is Johnathan Williams, because he's got a good look going on.
Jordan Mathews and Nigel Williams-Goss are tied for No. 4, they both keep it clean cut and all, but there isn't much else to it.
VTF: Alright, down to business for the last question: Give us your halftime and final scores and if you’re feeling ambitious, leading scorers on both teams?
Peter Woodburn: BYU and the Zags are always high scoring games, especially in Utah. I think the Zags are going to take this one, leading at half by six points, 44-38, and will eventually win 88-80. Leading scorers for the team, I think it'll be Eric Mika for BYU and I'll go out on a weird limb and say it will be Zach Collins for Gonzaga.
See our end of this Q&A, here.