Tournament Scouting Report
The seven-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs have a date with Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers (19-13, 9-9 in the Big East) in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
The winner will play the victor in the Ohio State / Loyola (MD) match-up
West Virginia will go into Pittsburgh, the loser of 6 of their last 10 games, meanwhile Gonzaga (25-6, 13-3 in the WCC) has gone 8-2 in that span.
If Gonzaga wants to win, they must do the following to give themselves a shot to avoid the upset.
1). Exhibit Frontline Physicality
The front line must be physical starting with senior center Robert Sacre. The WCC Defensive Player of the Year is a significant asset on both ends of the floor, as he averaged 11.7 points per game this year.
Junior forward Elias Harris posted 12 double-doubles while averaging 13.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg.
On the home stretch of the season, Harris grabbed 10+ rebounds in seven of his last nine games and in the WCC tournament he averaged 16 points and 14 boards.
2). Neutralize Kevin Jones
The 6’8″ forward from Mount Vernon, NY scored in double figures in every game this season and averaged 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Jones is also clutch at the free throw line, shooting over 78 percent.
An interesting stat: Jones did not foul out one time this season only recorded four personal fouls once, a 75-62 loss to Mississippi State on December 3.
3). Get to Darryl Bryant Early
The West Virginia guard from Brooklyn, NY is the Mountaineers’ second-leading scorer at 17.2 per game. Luckily for Gonzaga, Bryant is as streaky as they come, as he shot a paltry 36.2 percent this year.
Gonzaga must force him to miss early, and would be wise to employ senior guard Marquise Carter to do so, even at the expense of Jones scoring early on. Jones is good, but not good enough to beat Gonzaga on his own.
4). Have Strong Bench Play
This can be applied to any team, but especially Gonzaga’s. Carter has seen it all and will likely be a rock for coach Mark Few to depend on. Sophomore point guard David Stockton can run the offense and sophomore forward Sam Dower has the ability to knock down shots when given open looks.
The Bulldogs are limited in options if the Bulldogs are forced to go deeper on the bench.
5). Play Poised
One of the hallmarks of Huggy Bear’s teams, both in Cincinnati and now in West Virginia, is that they play physical and with a high degree of intensity.
To come out on top, the Bulldogs must not allow themselves to get caught up in the emotion and the physical play that will likely be on display by the Mountaineers.
The West Coast Conference is not as physical in nature as the Big East so Gonzaga must prepare themselves mentally for that this week.
It is up to Few and as well as Sacre, Harris, and Carter to keep freshman Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos on track.
The game features two of college basketball‘s more respected coaches and the differing styles of play for both teams. It also features guards that can fill it up when they get hot, with Pangos leading Gonzaga in scoring at 13.8 ppg.
There are a list of first round match-ups that teem with intrigue. Add Gonzaga-West Virginia to that list.