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Gonzaga-Pepperdine Preview

The Gonzaga Bulldogs could not have looked any better in their 101-52 dismantling of Santa Clara on Saturday night.

But other than the addition of 'W' to the win column, it probably didn't do them much good: Santa Clara's RPI is 347, fifth worst among Division I schools.

Now the No. 19 Zags (12-3, 2-0 WCC) travel to Malibu, Calif., to face Pepperdine (3-11, 0-2) on Thursday for their first road game on the conference schedule - and a win won't do much to boost their resume, either.

The Waves are No. 324 in the RPI.

"In our perfect world, everybody in the league helps everybody else," Gonzaga athletic director Mark Roth told The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review. "Now, wouldn't it help everybody to play Gonzaga? Isn't it going to help Santa Clara in a few weeks when we come to their place? I can't say that's not true, necessarily. But in this case, we're looking at a bigger picture."

In that bigger picture, the Big Ten has gone from 18 conference games to 20, effectively eliminating two nonconference games that could boost the profiles of teams from smaller conferences.

"They haven't said it, but it's being done with the hopes of getting more teams into the tournament and higher seeds," Roth said, "because when they play within their league, their RPIs go up."

So instead of a traditional round-robin schedule -- and home-and-home matchups with conference doormats like Santa Clara and Pepperdine -- would the West Coast Conference be better off trimming the number of league games from 18 to 16 and allowing schools to add two more potentially resume-building nonconference opportunities?

"We're 10 individual schools, and we each have to do what's best for our school," Roth told The Spokesman-Review. "But there are times when you have to think of what's best for us as a group."

A matchup with the Waves, who have the No. 326 defense in the nation and are 327th in 3-point shooting, won't do much to help Gonzaga's tournament seeding come March.

Those numbers don't bode well for Pepperdine against a Gonzaga team that shot 54.5 percent and held Santa Clara to 5-of-19 shooting from behind the arc.

But at least the Waves will be playing in Malibu for the first time since Dec. 9.

"It's great to be back home. We've been on the road so much," forward Nolan Taylor said Wednesday. "We've been on so many different airplanes.

"Even though we lost a few games on the road, I think it's brought us together as a team. Ultimately, it's bringing us close together, so we can go out and win as a team."

Sophomore forward Kameron Edwards leads Pepperdine with 15.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but he might miss a sixth straight game with a concussion.

Without him, Waves freshman Colbey Ross (14.3 points per game) would be Pepperdine's offensive focus.

The 6-foot-1 guard is averaging 5.3 assists (fourth best in the conference) and is shooting 40 percent from long range.

Zags freshman Corey Kispert, who started the first seven games of the season, appears to be close to 100 percent as he recovers from an ankle injury suffered Nov. 29 against Incarnate Word.

"It's taken me a little bit to get back to my normal form," Kispert, who finished with 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block, told The Spokesman-Review.

The 6-6 swingman, who sat out two games last month, has seen his on-court minutes increase in each of the Zags' first two WCC games.

Updated January 3, 2018

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