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Originally published Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 6:37 PM

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Gonzaga's task: beat the zone

Somehow, if Gonzaga is to upset the top-seeded Orange in today's second-round NCAA game, it has to find a way to attack the 2-3 'Cuse zone defense.

Seattle Times staff reporter

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The subject always accompanies Syracuse, about like snow attaches itself to upstate New York.

Somehow, if Gonzaga is to upset the top-seeded Orange in Sunday's second-round NCAA game, it has to find a way to attack the 2-3 'Cuse zone defense.

Saturday, Zags assistant Ray Giacoletti described it as long, suffocating and, often a factor late in March, difficult to prepare for on only one day's notice.

"I'm impressed at how active and how extended they are," Giacoletti said.

He also noticed a particular angle taken by some of the defenders, so that "you can't throw it under," meaning over the perimeter and toward the baseline.

The Zags want to be aggressive against the zone rather than tentative, and they'd like to enter the ball to the interior, either for opportunities inside or to kick it to perimeter shooters. Easier said than done; Syracuse's defensive field-goal percentage is .397.

"You have to step up and make shots against it," said Zags coach Mark Few.

Whither Harris?

The immediate future of Gonzaga freshman forward Elias Harris will be an issue this spring. Harris, who averages 14.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in what has been mostly an excellent debut, probably will explore whether the time is right to jump to the NBA.

But he's uninformed about the process.

"I think I have a chance to make it this year," he said. "I don't know how good a chance. Right now, I'm not really thinking about it. It's a really big tournament (the NCAA) and I don't know what happens after the season."

Harris admitted to knowing little about the process of evaluating his status, adding, "I'm just going to let everything come to me and make my decision."

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Harris had 13 points Friday night in the first-round victory over Florida State, but has had some inconsistency down the stretch. After a string of 11 double-figures games in a row extending into February, he followed with five games of less than 10 points in his next 11 outings.

This year, the final declaration date for the draft is May 8, about five weeks earlier than in the past.

And What's More . . .

• Giacoletti had been a candidate for the head-coaching job at Hawaii, which awarded the job to ex-USC assistant Gib Arnold on Saturday.

• Zags guard Matt Bouldin has been getting a lot of face time lately. He and Few were interviewed for about five minutes on CBS Saturday morning, and Bouldin is on one of Sports Illustrated's regional covers this week.

• During the interview session in Gonzaga's open locker room, a television was showing St. Mary's victory over Villanova that advanced the Gaels to the Sweet 16. "Nobody should underestimate St. Mary's," Harris said. "They beat us. That's a great team — seriously."

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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