Friday, March 27, 2015

Sweet 16: Gonzaga vs. UCLA, round two

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 10:07 AM

RAJAH BOSE PHOTO
  • Rajah Bose photo

Because college basketball seasons are long enough to span two calendar years, let us remind you that Gonzaga has already played UCLA this season. And they already beat them, too.

Yeah, it seems forever ago when a Gonzaga team, one week after a soul-crushing, almost-had-it loss to Arizona, strutted onto the floor of Pauley Pavillion, one of the most hallowed halls in all of college hoops, and soundly crushed UCLA. A quick refresher: the Zags were led by 24 points from Kyle Wiltjer and another 20 from Byron Wesley to win 87-74. Gonzaga shot an incredible 58 percent from the field and hit 9 of 19 from three to come out of Los Angeles with the convincing win.

So, after that, UCLA played pretty sloppy, going on to lose five in a row, including a game against Kentucky where they embarrassed everybody to ever wear the baby blue by scoring just seven points in the first half. Seriously. But the Bruins came back, making a respectable run through the Pac-12 schedule and finishing strong enough to get a questionable bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Questionable or not, they made it into the field and proved doubters, like myself, incorrect by making the Sweet 16 with wins against SMU and UAB.

Here are some things to keep in mind going into today's game (4:15 tip off, CBS).

THE BIG MEN
Gonzaga is known for its big men, namely Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis, both of whom can play with just about anybody in the country. But they will get a test from probably one-and-done freshman center Kevon Looney, a man who appears to have been born to rebound the basketball. After Looney, though, the Bruins will struggle to match up against the Zags' bigs. But after a farm boy strapped on a jersey and muscled in 22 points for North Dakota State against Gonzaga in the first round, so who knows.

THE HOT SHOOTERS
Here's a quick analysis: If the Zags shoot like they did against Iowa on Sunday, they win the game. Don't argue with me — they'll win it. With Kevin "Canadian Dream" Pangos and Wiltjer shooting it from downtown like they have been since stepping on the dance floor, and Gary Bell Jr also getting hip to the beat, the Zags look deadly.

But not so fast, there's a coach's son on the other side of the floor who can stroke it, too. Bryce Alford hit five triples on the way to 23 points the last time the Zags and Bruins matched up. He's been even more deadly in the NCAA tournament thus far, going 12-16 from downtown. As we know, hot long-distance shooters have given the Zags fits in years past.

PURE ENTERTAINMENT
You've all likely seen Eric McClellan's backflip being up-staged by Mark Few's handstand. This is a sign that the Zags are having fun with this and staying loose is great for a high-flying team like Gonzaga. Allow us to enjoy some more entertainment from the Warriors of the Logan.

They've got a WALK ON BAND, fer cryin' out loud! It looks like Rem Bakamus on the guitar, Dustin Triano on violin and Connor Griffin on the drum kit.

Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis appear to be working on a buddy sitcom in their spare time.
Speaking of Kyle Wiltjer, he doesn't seem to mind the massive confines of Houston's massive NRG stadium. I could watch him shoot all day. Seriously. They dress up as cowboys to go to Texas!
And, of course, the most entertaining thing on the court will be Kevin Pangos' glorious, magnificent, dreamy hair.
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