1:10 p.m. Thursday in Salt Lake City (TBS) Record: 31-2 overall, 16-0 in West Coast Conference (1st place). Seed: 1. RPI: 6. Bid: Automatic Automatic. Tournament...
1:10 p.m. Thursday in Salt Lake City (TBS)
Record: 31-2 overall, 16-0 in West Coast Conference (1st place).
Seed: 1. RPI: 6. Bid: Automatic.
Tournament record: 17-15. Best finish was in 1999, when it played in Elite Eight.
Last tournament experience: 2012 (lost in third round to Ohio State).
What the Zags have to do to win: Gonzaga needs to execute in the half-court and take advantage of a big edge in interior scoring with Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk. Zags also need to extend pressure and cover Southern three-point shooters.
|G||Gary Bell Jr.||6-1||So.||9.2||2.2||2.3|
Record: 23-9 overall, 15-3 in Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Seed: 16. RPI: 180. Bid: Automatic.
Tournament record: 1-7. Best finish was in 1993, when it upset Georgia Tech in the first round.
Last tournament appearance: 2006 (lost in first round to Duke).
What the Jaguars have to do to win: Southern, with a fine .364 field-goal percentage defense, needs to combat the Zags inside, using Mitchell's bulk to bother Olynyk. It will need to have a big day shooting the ball, and perhaps if it's close down the stretch, the pressure will tell on the Zags.
On the perimeter: Zags feature a heady pair of sophomore guards in Bell and Pangos, while Southern is backcourt-oriented, relying primarily on Beltran and Miller for scoring and Grace for playmaking. Bell and Pangos aren't penetrators, more shooters who get the ball where it needs to go. Beltran is considered Southern's best shooter, while Miller can take it to the hole. Miller comes off the bench early for Cameron Monroe. Edge: Gonzaga.
Among the bigs: Olynyk and Harris are a prolific one-two punch for the Zags, Olynyk now making All-America first teams and Harris a 132-game career starter. They've been very good recently in high-low passing to the rim. Mitchell, the Southern center, has been a disappointment this year and must come up big here, while the lanky Moore's strength is rebounding. Edge: Gonzaga.
First off the bench: Zags go deep, with Stockton an adept passer at the point, Dower contributing offense and Memphis transfer Barham a deft shooter. They also might turn to 7-2 Przemek Karnowski, figuring he could be useful later in the tournament. Monroe, though he starts, is virtually a bench player for Southern and primarily a defensive specialist. Hyder is a backup point guard who got starting experience when Grace was hurt early in the SWAC season. Edge: Gonzaga.
Coaching: Mark Few is in his 14th straight tournament and has coached 14 Gonzaga NCAA victories. Roman Banks has done an excellent job of turning around a program that went 9-51 the two years preceding his arrival. Edge: Gonzaga.
Prediction: Zags seem too solid, both physically and psychologically, to let the pressure of a No. 1 seed bother them. Unless jitters get to them, they should win big. Gonzaga, 73-51.