First Round Date With West Virginia
For the first time under coach Mark Few, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-6) will enter the NCAA tournament as the West Coast Conference’s second best team. As the top dog in his previous 12 trips to the dance, the Bulldogs have made only one more Sweet 16 (four) than first round exits (three).
As a result of past history, it should come as no surprise that the Bulldogs landed a seven seed and a date at Pittsburgh with West Virginia (19-13) in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs do have reason for some optimism that Few could get over the Sweet 16 wall and into the Elite 8 for the first time in over a decade, due to the front line of Elias Harris and Robert Sacre, guards Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos, and their bench.
If there are no upsets, Gonzaga would potentially face Ohio State and Florida State if all of the higher seeds win.
If Gonzaga gets by West Virginia, they will desperately need center Robert Sacre to be engaged at both ends of the floor to combat Ohio State center Jared Sullinger. Sacre, the WCC Defensive Player of the Year is a significant asset, as he averaged 11.7 points per game this year.
Junior forward Elias Harris has been playing his best basketball of the season, grabbing 10+ rebounds in seven of his last nine games. In the WCC tournament he averaged 16 points and 14 boards. Over the entire season he posted 12 double-doubles while averaging 13.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg.
The Bulldogs have the ability to score with anyone when freshman guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. find their shooting strokes. Pangos has three games this year of 27+ points and averaged 13.8 ppg.. Bell Jr. has been consistent all season long at 10.0 ppg without any notable offensive breakout games of note.
The bench has a mixture of experience and explosion. Senior guard Marquise Carter has seen it all and will likely be used as a defensive stopper throughout the tournament.
The bench is not deep and will be exposed severely if the Bulldogs face foul trouble.
As much as I would like to see them with me at the Final Four in New Orleans, I don’t think that the team has the steadiness or the maturity needed to win four games necessary to get there.
Consistency has plagued the Bulldogs this season due to a presence of youth, and a lack of mental toughness. Gonzaga’s freshman have provided stellar moments throughout the season, but at times have struggled to put together solid stretches of basketball in close games.
Sacre’s major flaw is his tendency to get rattled by opponents that match the intensity that he provides his teammates.
When the Bulldogs lose him mentally, the team tends to unravel as a result.
Given how the bracket looks, safe money would say that Gonzaga is a facing a third round defeat at the hands of Ohio State. That said, during March Madness, anything is possible.
Check out my Five things the Zags must do to beat West Virginia article as well.
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