#8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Oklahoma State
Time: 1:40 p.m. PST
Location: Viejas Arena, San Diego, Calif.
Gary Bell Jr.
It’s finally here ladies and gentlemen. The NCAA tournament is like Christmas for fans of college basketball, and that first Thursday morning of action is analogous to opening up presents with your family.
As cliché as that analogy is, there is some obvious truth to it. Whether your team is in the big dance or not, the NCAA tournament promises drama and excitement and makes for an enjoyable time.
Fortunately for fans of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, their team is in the field of 68. The Draw for the eight seeded Zags: the uber-talented Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Many Gonzaga fans cringed when OSU popped up at as the nine seed across from them, mostly due to the vast amount of talent the Cowboys possess.
Although he might not have lived up to his preseason hype, Marcus Smart is one of the most dynamic players in the country. He is a threat to go for 30 points and 10 assists on any given night. The Cowboys also feature Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash, two NBA quality athletes that can light it up.
Brown is the purest scorer that Oklahoma State has, as the senior guard can drive to the basket or shoot daggers from the outside. Brown is the Cowboys second leading scorer behind Smart.
Nash, the 6’7” junior forward, is a bit of a wild card – you’re not quite sure what you’re going to get with him. If he is aggressive down low in the paint he is awfully tough to stop. Nash is third on the team in scoring and tied for second with Smart in rebounding.
Phil Forte – Smart’s partner in crime and high school teammate – is a shooter with a super smooth stroke. Forte is fourth on Oklahoma State in scoring, and shoots 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. This is the type of player that needs to be accounted for at all times, because if he’s not, he will burn you.
The Cowboys were the No. 8 team in the country to start the season, and seemingly were living up to the lofty expectations. Oklahoma State was 15-2 at one point this season, but a stretch where the Pokes lost eight or their last nine games put them in a serious hole. Amidst that dark patch, there was an eight game losing streak and a messy Smart suspension due to him pushing a Texas Tech fan back on Feb. 8th.
Since that rough patch, Oklahoma State has bounced back with a 5-2 record and a win over No. 5 Kansas.
Why the Bulldogs will win:
It all starts out on the defensive end of the floor. If the Zags can limit Smart and his motley crew on the defensive end of the floor, their offense will come that much easier. Gonzaga has the horses to keep up with Oklahoma State from an offensive standpoint, but defensively they can be a little shaky.
From an athletic standpoint, the Cowboys have a distinct advantage. Therefore, the Bulldogs need to do the best with their limitations and strategize so that OSU cannot win on just athleticism alone. Expect Gonzaga to play a lot of zone against Oklahoma State.
Also, Oklahoma State has not fared well against the Zags in recent years. Cowboy’s Head coach Travis Ford is 0-3 against the Bulldogs since he took over in 2008.
Why the Bulldogs will lose:
Too much talent and athleticism on the Oklahoma State front would be the biggest reason.
This is one of Oklahoma State’s most talented teams in recent memory. They have three legitimate NBA prospect combined with one of the best scorers in the country. Although Kevin Pangos and David Stockton are great players in their own right, many speculate they cannot keep up with the athletic backcourt of OSU. If this is the case, the Zags will struggle mightily.
Unfortunately, I agree with a lot of what the losing criteria depicted. Oklahoma’s State pure talent and athleticism is not what a typical nine seed would possess.
I give the Bulldogs a 40 percent chance of pulling out the W and ultimately I predict a 77-70 loss for the Zags in a closely fought game.
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