Gonzaga opens NCAA Tournament against Southern

Good evening from Salt Lake City.

We have a variety of stories to post as the Zags await their matchup with Southern at EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday afternoon.

We'll link to the available links and cut-and-paste more below.

Here's my GU-Southern game preview, my notebook with the first item on Przemek Karnowski's progress as a freshman, John Blanchette's column on David Stockton's Salt Lake City homecoming and here's Christian Caple's notebook on the Jaguars and talented sixth man Malcolm Miller.


Here's our capsule glance at the game …

No. 1 Gonzaga

Region: West

Record: 31-2

Top scorer: Kelly Olynyk, 17.5

Top rebounder: Elias Harris, 7.4

Keys to victory: Gonzaga wants to stay with its inside-out approach, particularly with its size/strength advantage against the Jaguars. Southern lists four players at 6-feet-8 or taller, but only Javan Mitchell (6-9, 250 pounds) and Brandon Moore (6-10, 215) weigh more than 200 pounds.

Gonzaga’s inside tandem of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, along with reserves Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski, have put foul pressure on opponents most of the season. Southern’s Mitchell fouled out seven times in 32 games. Olynyk, Harris and Dower make 76.6-78.5 percent of their free throws. Starters Harris and Olynyk have attempted 45.4 percent of GU’s 733 free throws. Add in Dower and Karnowski and that figure rises to 63.4 percent.

Southern, like many GU foes, will likely crowd the paint with double teams or possibly a zone, and try to entice shots from the perimeter. Gonzaga guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. both endured occasional cold stretches to make 42.2 percent and 39 percent of their 3-pointers, respectively.

No. 16 Southern

Region: West

Record: 23-9

Top scorer: Derick Beltran, 15.9

Top rebounder: Brandon Moore, 7.1

Keys to victory: Southern’s Roman Banks was frank in his assessment of the matchup, noting that Gonzaga has a clear advantage inside with Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, but guard play is paramount to NCAA Tournament success and the coach believes he has one of the nation’s better backcourts. Jameel Grace, Derick Beltran and Malcolm Miller, a 6-foot-6 swing who can play ‘3’ or ‘4’, trigger Southern’s offense and defense.

Southern has been stingy defensively, allowing just 57.1 points per game. The Jaguars would be thrilled to hold Olynyk and Harris to 30 points or less and keep the Zags in the 50s or low 60s.

The Jaguars need big nights from their guards. If they stay within striking distance well into the second half, their upset hopes could gain momentum from the crowd. GU should have a big following in the stands, but unattached fans tend to back the underdog.

 


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