College Basketball: Why Gonzaga at Oklahoma State Is the Game to Watch This Week

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17:  Elias Harris #20 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs reacts after he made a 3-point basket late in the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 17, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

With nonconference play coming to a close this week, it is time to focus on one final game that involves two foes interlocked in an intriguing college basketball matchup.

Gonzaga (12-1) at Oklahoma State (10-1); Monday, 6 p.m. ET; ESPN2

On a day full of strong conference matchups, the nonconference clash between Gonzaga (WCC) and Oklahoma State (Big 12) is the marquee game to watch.

Mark Few's Gonzaga team is looking to record their fifth win over Big 12 opposition at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Monday night. 

The Zags defeated Baylor, 94-87, on Friday night in Spokane behind an impressive three-point shooting display from Kevin Pangos, before making their journey south to Stillwater.

Although they have played a difficult nonconference schedule, the Zags do not have a signature win this season.

They were given the chance to defeat Illinois at home on December 8, but they were thoroughly dominated by Brandon Paul and the visiting Illini. 

Not only will Gonzaga have a chance to a signature win on Monday night in Stillwater, but they will also be able to give fans east of the Rocky Mountains a chance to see what they are all about.

For fans who have not tuned into a Gonzaga game this season, be prepared to watch a team that has plenty of depth. 

In the frontcourt, the Bulldogs possess a trio of strong, big men that includes senior Elias Harris, junior Kelly Olynyk, and Przemek Karnowski, a seven foot freshman from Poland. 

Harris and Olynyk will feature the most in the Bulldogs' lineup, while Karnowski is a valuable threat off of the bench.

At the guard position, Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. are the ringleaders, but expect to see David Stockton and Mike Hart during the game as well.

Pangos broke out of a slump against Baylor with a season-high 31 points, and he will be the key player for the Oklahoma State defense to control.

Since upsetting NC State in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tipoff, the Cowboys have flown under the national radar.

Sophomore Le'Bryan Nash has emerged as one of the best players in the Big 12 with his strong performances in nonconference play.

Nash has averaged 14.4 points per game and he has played his best during the biggest games of the season for the Cowboys.

Against the three toughest teams on the schedule, Tennessee, NC State, and Virginia Tech, Nash has averaged 19 points per game. 

If the Cowboys are on Monday night, they will need the players around Nash to contribute.

Marcus Smart is rapidly becoming one of the best freshmen in the nation; the guard has scored in double digits in eight games this season.

Also accompanying Nash and Smart in the back court is junior Markel Brown, who is averaging 14 points per game this season.

The Cowboys' guards can play as well as they want to on Monday, but the game will be won in the paint. 

The players who will be given the task of defending the dangerous group of Gonzaga forwards include Philip Jurick, Kamari Murphy, and Michael Cobbins.

While the talent level at the guard position is close to being equal, there is a huge difference between the talents of Gonzaga's frontcourt trio and the one of Oklahoma State. 

With all that being said, Gonzaga should have their way with Oklahoma State and move into WCC play on the heels of an important road victory.