The Arizona Wildcats have survived their Second Round opener versus the Weber State Wildcats, 68-59, and will now face the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the round of 32. This game will tip-off tonight at 6:40 MST at Viejas Arena in San Diego, CA.
The Bulldogs are coming off a strong win versus future NBA lottery pick Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State. This was a big grind-it-out game for both teams as five players fouled out and 61 total fouls were called. What does this mean for Arizona? They should be tired. Gonzaga had to work hard for its win; it looked as if Arizona was going at half speed in theirs. The Wildcats must set the tempo and win the game in transition.
The Zags head coach Mark Few has done an outstanding job during his time in Spokane, WA. They are an annual tournament team that has produced NBA talent and is considered the most successful mid-major program in the recent years. This team is just as talented as any Gonzaga team of the past, led by junior point guard Kevin Pangos and senior forward Sam Dower Jr.
Pangos is one of the best point guards in the nation. He can shoot, pass, and defend. If T.J. McConnell is Aaron Craft 2.0, Pangos is McConnell 2.0. Nick Johnson should be doing most of the defensive work on him. Dower leads the team in points and rebounds per game (14.6 and 7.2 respectively), so look for Aaron Gordon to take on this defensive challenge. If the Wildcats can stop these two, they should be in good hands.
Speaking of challenges, Kaleb Tarczewski has a “big” one on his hands today as he squares up against Polish 7’1” big man Przemek Karnowski. Not only is he an inch taller, but he also weighs 60 pounds more than “Zeus.” Tarczewski needs to stay out of foul trouble so he can stay in the game or else Arizona will have some matchup problems.
NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton’s son David Stockton is the Zags’ starting shooting guard. He and Pangos make a solid backcourt, so Johnson and McConnell will have another great backcourt challenge.
The Wildcats started out slow last game and the Bulldogs started out hot. Arizona does not want this to happen again today because Gonzaga jumped ahead and stayed there the whole game.
These two teams have only met once in the NCAA Tournament. This game was in 2003 and was a 2OT thriller. The Wildcats ended up pulling off a 96-95 victory as Jason Gardner and Channing Frye scored 22 points each in the victory. Obviously there are no players still on the team from then, but Few definitely remembers the heartbreak.
This time around, the game should not be as high of scoring. The Wildcats are one of the best defensive teams in the nation, and Gonzaga is not quite UCLA in terms of scoring offense. The only common opponent these teams have is Washington State, which the Bulldogs defeated 90-74. The one time Arizona and Washington State met, the Cougars only scored 25 points as Arizona went on to win 60-25.
The winner is headed to the Sweet 16 in Anaheim, CA. Its always fun when ‘Cats and ‘Dogs square off, and this should not be any different this time around in San Diego. The Wildcats do not want to fall behind versus this dangerous Bulldogs team, and I believe they will end up squeaking out a victory by a score of 67-62.
And always remember, “Nastiness is required.”
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