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NCAA West: Top 25 Teams, Previews for Arizona vs. Oregon and Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s

On Wednesday, January 9, college hoops reached its middle of the season mark (if you don’t count March Madness) and conference play is in full swing.

In the Pac-12, the Arizona Wildcats (14-0, 2-0) continue to roll with their undefeated season. They sit at No. 4 in the AP, representing the conference in the Top 25.

Over in the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga (15-1, 2-0) sits at #9 in this week’s AP poll while the Mountain West is well represented with #16 San Diego State (13-2, 1-0), #24 UNLV (13-3, 0-1) and #25 New Mexico (14-2, 1-0).

On Thursday, ESPN cited this conference as the most competitive one from top to bottom. Conference play was busy was on Wednesday as San Diego State narrowly defeated Fresno State, 65-62 and New Mexico beat UNLV, 65-60.

Looking ahead, two games on Thursday look interesting: Arizona vs. Oregon and Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s.

Arizona vs. Oregon

Wildcats Solomon Hill

Both teams will enter this match up with great starts to their seasons: Arizona is having its best one in 81 years while Oregon has its greatest home start (16 games) in 11 years.

Arizona’s straight wins haven’t all been easy and in their game against Colorado last Thursday, they won 92-83 in OT, followed by a last-second 60-57 win over Utah on Saturday.

Are the Wildcats on the verge of their first loss?

Maybe not if forward Solomon Hill can continue playing well such as his team-high 19 points last Saturday; his sits with an 18.3 points per game average with 56.7 percent shooting over his three prior games.

He plays well against Oregon. In his two previous games, he’s scored a combined 30 points (12 for 19) that includes 16 points in last January’s 59-57 loss, which ended the team’s six-game win streak in the series.

Arizona will need guard Mark Lyons, their leading scorer (14.1 points per game), to break his cold shooting spell from his three previous games (11 for 39 for 28.2 percent) and to see improvement in shooting from the field (39.0 percent) .

Oregon has a talented freshman, guard Damyean Dotson, leading the team in double scoring figures (11.8 points per game); he scored a season-high 21 points against the Oregon State Beavers on Sunday.

Senior forward E.J. Singler also had a good game against the in-state foe with 15 points and nine rebounds and in last season’s game against Arizona, he scored 12 points with seven assists.

Oregon sits as No. 2 in conference for scoring (77.5 points per game) while the Wildcats are No. 3 in scoring defense (60.7 points per game).

They are looking for a fourth straight win at Oregon on Thursday and have a slight nod to do so (-1.5).

Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s

Gonzaga's Matthew Dellavedova

After years of dominance by Gonzaga, St. Mary’s (12-3, 1-0) has been a thorn in the Bulldog’s side the last few years. Last season is a great example as they defeated them in the West Coast Conference title game in OT, 78-74.

St. Mary’s will bring senior Aussie Matthew Dellavedova with his 17.4 points per game and a league-high 6.7 assists. In his last five games against Gonzaga, he has an average of 22.6 points.

In Saturday’s 74-61 win over Loyola Marymount, James Walker III and Beau Levesque came off the bench and scored 23 points combined.

Dellavedova said of the win via ESPN, “We just really wanted to get a good start to conference. We knew they were going to be physical, so we just wanted to come out and be more ready to play.”

As for Gonzaga, their only loss for the season has come against then No. 13 Illinois, 85-74, and since then, they’ve won six straight games.

Junior Kelly Olynyk hit a career-high 33 points with 10 rebounds in Saturday’s win against Santa Clara.

Saint Mary’s could have a tough time playing at the McCarthey Athletic Center; Gonzaga doesn’t lose at home when playing unranked opponents. They’ve won 18 consecutive games by a 23.1-point average and Thursday will make it 19 (-9.5).

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