No. 1 seed Gonzaga (32-2) faces No. 9 seed Wichita State (27-8) Saturday at 5:40 p.m. in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will take place at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City and be televised by TNT.
The Stats - The Shockers' defensive prowess was on display in their 73-55 second round win over Pitt. Gregg Marshall's team forced 15 turnovers and turned them into 21 points. Wichita State also held the Panthers to a 1-for-17 performance from beyond the arc. Their biggest strength is on the glass, where they entered the week with the seventh best rebound margin in the nation (8.4). Wichita State faces a Gonzaga team that has also shown the ability to clean the glass, ranked 11th in the same category. At 69.4 points per game WSU isn't an offensive juggernaut. They also struggle from deep, hitting 33.7 percent of their three-point attempts. Mark Few's team did allow Southern to hit 10 of their 23 threes, but on the year they've limited opponents to 38.2 percent shooting from the floor, 10th best in the country.
The Stars - Marshall fortified his bench by taking forward Cleanthony Early out of the starting lineup. That was evidenct in Early's 21-point outburst against Pitt. On the year he leads the Shockers with 13.8 points per game. Guard Malcolm Armstead set the tone offensively with 22 points in their tournament debut. He posts just over 10 points per game on the year. Six-foot-eight-inch forward Carl Hall is second in scoring (12.8) and tops in rebounding (7.2). In Gonzaga's 64-58 win over the Jags Kelly Olynyk took control in the second half, scoring 10 straight GU points and finishing with 21 and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, Elias Harris will try and bounce back from his lowest-scoring outing of the season. The senior forward finished with five points on 2-for-10 shooting. Those two won't get many free passes against a physical Shockers' frontcourt. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. got off to a good start in Salt Lake City, combining for 27 points on seven threes. Their contributions could again be key if the GU posts run into trouble like they did at times against Southern.
The Storylines - The Shockers got a confidence boost in their runaway win over Pitt. Meanwhile GU got pushed to the brink, and narrowly avoided becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose their tournament debut. Regardless of how it played out, the Zags got their 15th consecutive win. Now they take aim at their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2009. Wichita State hasn't made it past the first weekend since 2006. The squads have met just once, resulting in a 54-53 OT win for the Shockers back in 1994. Both programs have come a long way since then, and hope to take another important step Saturday.