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Top of the Arc - January 7, 2009

Jan. 7, 2 p.m.: What is wrong with Gonzaga? The Bulldogs have been the most enigmatic team in the country over the first two months of the season. One month ago, they looked like a strong Final Four contender. They were hailed as Mark Few’s strongest Zags team. And they owned impressive victories over Oklahoma State, Maryland and Tennessee.

But now they have lost three of the past four games and find themselves unranked heading into a critical showdown rematch tonight at Tennessee. Gonzaga has more talent than just about any team in the country, but the Bulldogs only have seven wins against Division I competition and are certainly no lock to win their own conference because of the way St. Mary’s is playing. What’s more, they still play a challenging non-conference game against Memphis on Feb. 7. So this team does not have nearly as much margin for error as it appeared to possess just a few weeks ago.

Few has recently pointed to one moment that changed his team’s fortunes: A.J. Price’s three-pointer that sent the Dec. 20 game against Connecticut into overtime. The Huskies prevailed 88-83. Three days later, Gonzaga inexplicably lost to Portland State, the favorite in the Big Sky Conference. Eight days after that, the Bulldogs dropped a one-point game to Utah, an emerging Mountain West Conference contender.

Gonzaga will most likely turn it around and engage in a nip-and-tuck battle with St. Mary’s for the WCC crown. But tonight’s game, a difficult one against a team looking to avenge an earlier defeat, could play a large role in determining the Bulldogs’ mindset as they begin conference play in a few days.

By Eric Prisbell  |  January 7, 2009; 2:01 PM ET
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