NCAA tournament team previews: Gonzaga Bulldogs
As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team's national rank. For more teams, click here.
Record: 28-6, 15-3 in West Coast Conference
Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 111.6 (49th) / 93.6 (13th)
Seed: No. 8 in West
Impact player: Sam Dower, senior forward, 15.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 123.4 offensive rating
The Case For:
A year ago, Gonzaga was one of the most polarizing teams in the NCAA tournament. Many believed the Zags didn’t deserve the No. 1 seed they received, and the Bulldogs did little to prove them wrong, losing in the Round of 32 to Wichita State.
This year, people are underestimating how good Mark Few’s team is. It’s a testament to the consistent success Gonzaga has achieved under Few that sweeping the West Coast Conference’s regular season and conference titles has become an expectation for the Zags. They did it this season thanks to a defense that ranks in the nation’s top 20 in points allowed per possession, effective field goal percentage and two-point field goal percentage. Gonzaga also boasts one of the best guard tandems west of the Mississippi in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., both of whom average double-digit points and have posted offensive ratings that fall in the nation’s top 200. Senior forward Sam Dower anchors the frontcourt and is the Bulldogs' top offensive option. Dower is averaging team-highs in points (15.0) and rebounds (7.1) and uses the most possessions (24.4) during his minutes.
The Case Against:
You know the deal with Gonzaga: great team from November to February, but can’t get it done on the big stage. Despite earning multiple top-four seeds during Few’s tenure, the Zags have not advanced past the Sweet 16. Why should anyone believe they will this season? Pangos, Bell and senior guard David Stockton compose a solid backcourt, but their size (Bell and Pangos are 6-foot-2; Stockton is 5-11) makes them a liability on the defensive end. Mammoth center (7-1, 296 pounds) Przemek Karnowski is a quality rebounder and an elite shot blocker, but foul trouble often limits his minutes. He also had his shot blocked by a 6-foot-1 guard earlier this season. Gonzaga didn’t have much trouble churning through a soft WCC schedule, but unlike previous Zags teams, they didn’t do much of note in November and December. They lost to Dayton and Kansas State and their best wins came against Arkansas, New Mexico State and West Virginia.
SI prediction: Lose to Oklahoma State in second roundView complete bracket predictions from SI.com's panel of experts