NCAA Tournament Preview: #2 Gonzaga vs. #15 North Dakota State


Gonzaga is back in the building where they began their magical run to the Elite Eight.

The Bulldogs (32-2) play North Dakota State (23-9) in a second round NCAA Tournament game Friday night at KeyArena.

Gonzaga began the 1999 NCAA Tournament at KeyArena with victories over seventh-seeded Minnesota and second-seeded Stanford. The Zags are hoping for the same results this weekend.

Things are a bit different now. Gonzaga is making their 17th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, which is currently the fourth-longest active streak in the nation. To start a deep tournament run, the Bulldogs will first have to take care of business with the 15th-seeded Bison.

North Dakota State averaged 64.5 points per game this season. Gonzaga scored at a pace of 79.1 points per game.

The Zags’ high scoring is due to their offensive efficiency. They currently lead the nation in field goal percentage at 52.4 percent.

They are led by junior forward Kyle Wiltjer, who averages a team-leading 16.7 points per game. The former Kentucky player was the most valuable player in the West Coast Conference Tournament, as he led the Bulldogs to their third consecutive conference tournament title.

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North Dakota State is making their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bison upset fifth-seeded Oklahoma before falling to fourth-seeded San Diego State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament last year.

The Bison are led by senior guard Lawrence Alexander. He leads the team with 18.9 points per game and 44.1 percent shooting from behind the arc. He makes an average of more than three 3-pointers per games, which is good enough for 13th in the country. North Dakota State will likely rely on Alexander’s shooting if they want to upset the second-seeded Bulldogs.

After getting defeated by Brigham Young in their final regular season game, Gonzaga has won their last three games by an average of 14.3 points.

The game tips off at 6:50 p.m. Friday and can be seen on TNT. It immediately follows the Iowa-Davidson game, which tips off at 4:20 p.m.