Record: 28-6 (15-3 West Coast Conference)
Conference: West Coast Conference
How They Qualified: Won WCC Tournament
For what seems like the 50th year in a row Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs were the class of the West Coast Conference, as they were the top seed in their conference tournament, which they won fairly easily. Coming off of a season where they were arguably one of the best teams in the country, it was going to be tough for the Bulldogs to live up to such high expectations – especially without Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris – but like we’re so used to seeing in Spokane, there’s always someone ready to step up when given a chance.
This years heroes were seniors Sam Dower and David Stockton, who watched their roles increase from contributors to main facilitators. Filling the previously mentioned huge shoes of Olynyk and Harris, Dower surprised the country as he led the team in scoring (15.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.1 rpg), and gives the Zags one of the best low post scoring options in the country. Dower is also successful because he plays in an offense that spreads the court and has players who make shots at a high percentage (the Zags had the fifth-best field goal percentage in the country at .498), not to mention an unselfish and the keyword again – efficient – backcourt with Stockton and junior Kevin Pangos.
Once again, Few is bringing a team into the NCAA Tournament that has a slew of shooters, and enough talent up front that if his key bigs can stay out of foul trouble, they should give most teams in the tournament a very hard out.
What You Need to Know
Leading Scorer: Sam Dower (15.0 ppg)
Leading Rebounder: Sam Dower (7.1 rpg)
Leading Passer: David Stockton (4.2 apg)
Bad Losses: San Diego, Portland
Good Wins: West Virginia, Arkansas, BYU (2x)
What to Expect
There’s good and bad to landing Oklahoma State in their 8/9 matchup. On the bright side, the Zags have a clear advantage on the boards and up front, as OK St. has no match whatsoever for Dower. I also think Gonzaga’s efficiency both from behind the arc and in general from the field will give Oklahoma State fits as they struggle to guard the perimeter.
Now it’s very unfortunate that Gonzaga has to begin their tournament facing a 9-seed that had – and probably still does – Final Four potential at the start of the season. If Oklahoma State is able to play their physical brand of basketball and avoid foul trouble I don’t know that Gonzaga will be able to keep up with them, but I think the Zags ability to take care of the ball and shoot the cover off of it will really help them against one of the less disciplined teams in the tournament.
Beyond that first matchup, if the Zags move on they face Arizona, who had the number one spot in the country on lock for a good portion of the season. So despite once again having a very good team, the prognosis isn’t too good that we see this years version of the Bulldogs play beyond the first weekend.