Here are five facts about the Zags...
1) Gonzaga is playing in its 11th-straight NCAA Tournament. Many fans know Gonzaga as being the alma mater of
John Stockton, but the Bulldogs were just another mid-major back in the '80s. The Zags grabbed the nation's attention with an Elite Eight appearance in 1999, and they followed it up with Sweet Sixteen appearances in 2000, 2001 and 2006. However, the Bulldogs have lost in the first round in the past two NCAA Tournaments. Gonzaga guard
Matt Bouldin said the team was struggling before those tournaments. This year, the Zags are peaking.
2) The Bulldogs thoroughly tested themselves during the nonconference schedule. When you're gunning for an upset, it's fruitful to look at how underdogs have beaten the favored team. If you're going to beat Gonzaga, you have to win the rebounding battle. Opponents outrebounded the Zags in four of their five losses. Further, point guard
Jeremy Pargo tends to turn to ball over frequently in losses. A loss to Connecticut sent the Zags into a funk that also included losses at Utah and in Spokane against Portland State at home. The Bulldogs also lost to Memphis and at Arizona, which is certainly forgivable.
3) Gonzaga's greatest asset is the team's height. It helps the Bulldogs keep opponents to
the nation's second-lowest field goal percentage (36.9 percent). The length also gives Gonzaga's guards less hassle from pesky but short perimeter defenders. They shoot the 14th best percentage on 3s (39.9 percent). Keep in mind that Akron's guards are short:
Humpty Hitchens is 5-foot-9,
Darryl Roberts is 6-0,
Steve McNees is 6-2, and
Brett McClanahan is 6-4. Gonzaga really takes advantage of other teams with its four giant guards who split three positions in the lineup. Aside from Pargo (6-2) and Bouldin (6-5), the other two are 6-8
Micah Downs and 6-5
4) Here are some other national rankings: 66th in rebounding margin, 16th in assist-to-turnover ratio, 25th in blocked shots and 13th in turnover margin. Those stats are somewhat deceiving because of the level of competition in the West Coast Conference, in which only three of eight teams hold winning records. Gonzaga went 16-0 in league play.
5) The Zags have several individuals among the nation's leaders, as well. Bouldin and Pargo are top 100 in the nation with assist-to-turnover ratios close to 2.
Josh Heytvelt is 47th in the nation with a 54.4 field goal percentage. Pargo is 51st in the nation with 4.9 assist per game. Austin Daye, a 6-11 forward, is 51st in the nation with 1.9 blocks per game.
As you saw from the post below,
Tom Gaffney will post on my blog during his trip to Portland. Keep tabs on the Buchtelite's
Vincent Dorsey, who is also
blogging from Portland.
You can still register for the AK-Rowdies Bracket Challenge on
Facebook. There are currently 86 participants. I will post the leaderboard on the blog.
Keith Dambrot's interview on ESPN First Take today. Someone needs to tell the anchor that the "T" in Dambrot is not silent.