No. 1 seed Gonzaga (31-2) faces 16-seed Southern (23-9) Thursday at 1:10 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will take place at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City and will be televised by TBS.
The Stats - All year Gonzaga has been among the most efficient teams offensively in the nation. On Thursday they take on a team that's had a track record of putting the clamps on their opponents. The Jaguars are No. 2 in field goal percentage defense, with teams connecting on 36.5 percent of their shots. Squads have also only hit 28.4 of their three-pointers, good enough for third-best in the country. Southern's foes have only scored at a 57.1 point clip, which puts them at 13th in the NCAA ranks. The Jags haven't faced the most explosive offenses, and it's shown with Southern limiting the opposition to 50 or less on 12 occations. Roman Banks' team has also done a solid job at taking care of the ball, sitting 15th in turnovers per game at 10.9. Southern certainly hasn't taken on a team with the offensive firepower of the Zags, who enter the tournament ranking third in field goal percentage (50.4), first in scoring margin (18.2), and 11th in scoring offene (77.6). Mark Few's team has also only allowed 59.4 points per game on 38.2 percent shooting (10th in the nation). That could be an issue for a team that scored just 45 in their SWAC Championship win over Prairie View A&M.
The Stars - Derrick Beltran and Malcolm Miller have had scoring honors in all but two of the Jags' games. The backcourt duo combines to score over 31 per game, with each averaging just shy of 16 each time out. Miller is their most dangerous three-point shooter, with makes on 87 of his 189 tries. With Beltran at 6-feet-4-inches and Miller at 6'6" the Jaguars have some good size along the perimeter. Southern does also have some size down low, with Brandon Moore standing above the rest at 6-feet-10-inches. He and his frontcourt mates will have to contend with a pair of GU bigs that have been on a tear. Elias Harris took WCC Tournament MVP honors thanks to 20 points per game. He and Kelly Olynyk combined for 34.5. Those two have led Gonzaga in scoring in six of their last seven games. Harris has reached double-digits in their last seven games, matching his longest run of the season. Meanwhile, Olynyk failed to reach double figures for the first time since the Oklahoma game in their WCC semifinal matchup against Loyola Marymount. He responded with a 21 and 12 rebound effort against the Gaels.
The Storylines - It doesn't take much searching to find the primary angle for the Zags heading into this one. For the first time in program history the Bulldogs will take the floor in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed and as the No. 1 team in the polls. Few's guys landed at the top of the rankings for the third straight week a day after getting the top spot in the West Region. Their previous best seed was a No. 2 in 2004. They've gotten to this point thanks to 14 consecutive wins. This milestone tournament appearance marks their 15th straight year in the Big Dance. As for the Jags, they are in the field for the eighth time, and the first since 2006. The teams have met just once before, in the 2010-2011 season opener. That meeting resulted in a 117-72 Gonzaga win. A similar margin of victory would be a promising start to another NCAA run, in a year where there is more spotlight on the Zags than ever before.