Busting Brackets

Gonzaga vs Kansas: 2024 NCAA Tournament game preview, TV schedule

Mar 21, 2024; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Ryan Nembhard (0) looks to pass during
Mar 21, 2024; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Ryan Nembhard (0) looks to pass during / Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

A highly-anticipated second round matchup pits Kansas against Gonzaga; do the Jayhawks or Bulldogs find their way to the Sweet Sixteen this year?

TV schedule: Saturday, March 23, 3:15 pm ET. CBS

Arena: Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah

It’s been an irregular season at Gonzaga (26-7), and yet this program finds itself in a familiar position. The Bulldogs were seen as a bubble team a month ago before a hot February and early March put them comfortably in the field. They then make quick work against 12-seed McNeese, pounding the Cowboys by 21 points in the opening round of the Big Dance on Thursday. Gonzaga now looks for a ninth straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

There’s a lot to like about Gonzaga and it starts with Graham Ike (16.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) the former Wyoming forward who had 16 points against McNeese and has fit in nicely in Spokane. Fellow frontcourt weapon Anton Watson (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is having the finest season of his career and came one assist shy of a triple-double in round one. Nolan Hickman (13.8 ppg, 2.7 apg) had 11 last time out and is always a threat to score while point guard Ryan Nembhard (12.8 ppg, 6.8 apg) is a Creighton transfer with plenty of postseason experience.

Gonzaga now finds themselves up to 12th in the KenPom ratings, sitting 8th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. This team has been far from perfect and doesn’t exactly excel with long-range shooting, but has done more than enough in recent weeks to prove that they’re still a force. At the very least they’ll have their full complement of players available.

The same cannot be said for Kansas (23-10) who have limped their way into the Tourney field and will be without star Kevin McCullar Jr. for the rest of the postseason. The Jayhawks struggled far more than usual against a strong Big 12, but still grabbed a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, they came dangerously close to being upset by Samford on Thursday and face a much tougher opponent in the Round of 32.

There’s still no shortage of talent for the Jayhawks, beginning with All-American center Hunter Dickinson (18.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg), the Michigan transfer who had 19 points and 20 rebounds against Samford this week. Helping alleviate the loss of McCullar has been KJ Adams Jr. (12.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg), a junior forward who led the Jayhawks with 20 points against the Bulldogs on Thursday. You can count on a solid effort from junior point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (8.5 ppg, 6.4 apg), while freshman Johnny Furphy (9.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg) dropped 16 points and has been a bright spot this season.

Even with a plethora of losses, the Jayhawks are still a nationally-ranked team and find themselves sitting 23rd in the KenPom ratings. This is another team that will not be beating you from outside, as Kansas has been pretty dreadful from beyond the arc in recent weeks. They depend more on Dickinson’s offense and ball drives to get the job done for an offense that perked back up against Samford but hasn’t been itself without McCullar.

Make no mistake, these teams can both score points in a hurry even without consistent outside offense. How Gonzaga handles Dickinson down low will be an interesting matchup to watch, though Kansas’s offense as a whole will be the story. They played much better a few days ago, but had scored just 98 points in their previous two games combined. McCullar isn’t walking through the door, and the Jayhawks will need even more from Adams and Furphy.

Next. Most intriguing Round of 32 games. Most intriguing Round of 32 games. dark

Anything is possible between these two very solid programs, though Kansas’s injury woes aren’t ideal. Remember that Dickinson himself missed the Big 12 Tournament and this Gonzaga offense will be one of the best they’ve seen this season. It’s an electric point guard battle between Nembhard and Harris but the more cohesive offense with the Bulldogs will carry to the Sweet Sixteen again.

Prediction: Gonzaga 80, Kansas 74