Zags take their shot at top-seeded Arizona
Gonzaga, back in its familiar role as NCAA tournament underdog, takes on No.-1-seeded Arizona tonight in San Diego.
The Zags have pulled more than their share of tourney upsets — No. 7 Minnesota, No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Florida in 1999, No. 7 Louisville and No. 2 St. John's in 2000, to name several — but they've never knocked off a No. 1. They're 0-5.
They've come close twice, falling to No. 1 UConn 67-62 in 1999, 77-62 to Michigan State in 2001, 96-95 in double OT to Arizona in 2003, 99-78 to North Carolina in 2009 and 87-65 to Syracuse in 2010.
Here's our coverage: My game preview, my notebook and look back at the memorable 2003 contest, and John Blanchette's column on a couple of 7-footers. A capsule look at the teams and keys to victory below.
In-game updates on twitter tonight @srjimm.
8. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Coach: Mark Few
Top scorer: Sam Dower Jr., 14.6
Top rebounder: Dower, 7.2
Keys to victory: Gonzaga has to take care of the ball and somehow find quality shots against a defense that ranks among the best in the country. Turnovers typically trigger the Wildcats’ open-court game and they have a numerous above-the-rim finishers. The Zags had a nice inside-outside blend against Oklahoma State but that will be tougher to achieve against Arizona. The Wildcats have a true center in 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski, whose season averages nearly mirror GU’s Przemek Karnowski’s. The Zags need more from forward Sam Dower Jr., who scored just three points versus Oklahoma State, but his matchup against bouncy 6-9 freshman Aaron Gordon won’t be easy at both ends of the floor. If the Bulldogs can squeeze out enough points, limit turnovers and compete on even terms on the glass, they’ll have a chance to upset one of the tournament four No. 1 seeds.
1. Arizona Wildcats
Coach: Sean Miller
Top scorer: Nick Johnson, 16.3
Top rebounder: Aaron Gordon, 7.8
Keys to victory: Rely on what brought them to a No. 4 ranking and top seed: The Wildcats’ dazzling man-to-man defense. They allow just 58.2 points and that held true in their victory Friday when Weber State scored just 59. Arizona successfully takes away an opponent’s top scoring threats. Weber State’s Davion Berry and Joel Bolomboy combined to make just 8 of 30 field-goal attempts. They combined for 35 points, but 15 came at the free-throw line. Arizona is quick, long, athletic and strong. Those attributes limit penetration, shrink passing lanes and allow for swift recoveries by help defenders. The Wildcats are efficient offensively but prone to scoring droughts. They were held scoreless for roughly the first 5 minutes by Weber State. Still, Arizona has multiple options, led by guard Nick Johnson, and they have 22 games with at least four double-figures scorers. The Wildcats will try to win it on the defensive end and use balance to take care of the other end of the court.