Arizona faces Gonzaga with Sweet 16 berth at stake
SAN DIEGO — The top-seeded Arizona men’s basketball team will face the eighth-seed Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32 on Sunday evening in San Diego’s Viejas Arena.
The winner of the game will advance to the Sweet 16 next week in Anaheim, Calif.
The Wildcats have played the Bulldogs four times before and while the most recent contest in 2011 ended in a 71-60 loss in KeyArena in Seattle. Arizona holds a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series.
Oklahoma sophomore post Kamari Murphy (21) and Oklahoma senior wing Markel Brown (22) put pressure on Gonzaga junior guard Kevin Pangos (4) during the second half of Gonzaga's 85-77 win against Oklahoma State at the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Viejas Arena in San Diego, Cali. on Friday. Gonzaga advances to the third round and will play Arizona on Sunday.
“There’s no underestimating [Gonzaga],” freshman forward Aaron Gordon said. “I expect a very high-level basketball game. We know they’re a very good team [and] they’re well coached.”
(1) Arizona vs. (8) Gonzaga
When: Sunday, approx. 6:40 p.m. MST/PDT
(29-6, 15-3 West Coast Conference)
In the dog house:
McCarthey Athletic Center, a 6,000 capacity multi-purpose arena, also known as “The New Kennel” has been the home of Bulldogs basketball since 2004. Gonzaga has posted a 123-8 (.939) home record since moving from the original Kennel at Charlotte Y. Martin Centre.
West Coast Conference history:
A perennial conference powerhouse, Gonzaga completed its 33rd season in the WCC and, similarly to the Arizona, put up an undefeated record at home this year.
Over the past two seasons, Gonzaga has won each of its 17 home contests against conference foes, has gone 31-3 overall in conference play and has secured two league titles.
NCAA Tournament history:
Going into Sunday night’s game, Gonzaga holds a 19-16 record in NCAA Tournament matchups. The Bulldogs have qualified for the Big Dance in each of the past 15 seasons, but have failed to make it past the regional finals and have only gone past the Sweet 16 once since 1995.
In 1999, Gonzaga made its sole trip to the Elite Eight after defeating Florida, but subsequently fell to Connecticut. Gonzaga advanced to the Sweet 16 four more times in 2000, 2001, 2006 and most recently in 2009.
Over the past 15 years, the Bulldogs have been knocked out of the tournament 10 times in either the Round of 64 or Round of 32.
In 2003, Arizona defeated the Bulldogs 96-95 in double overtime in the Round of 32, but Gonzaga put up one of its best performances. The Bulldogs compiled their team’s tournament-best 20 assists and 95 points off 34 field goals in the match.
Kevin Pangos – junior guard – 14.5 points per game and 3.7 assists per game
Sam Dower – senior center/forward – 14.6 ppg and 7.2 rebounds per game
Przemek Karnowski – sophomore center – 10.3 ppg and 7.0 rpg
Gonzaga by the numbers: vs. Arizona by the numbers:
77.1: ppg 72.9: ppg
65.4: allowed ppg 58.2: allowed ppg
35.8: rpg 38.7: rpg
3.91: blocks per game 4.5: blocks per game
14.6: assists per game 15.1: assists per game
6.6: steals per game 5.8: steals per game
.498: field goal percentage .471: field goal percentage
.397: three-point percentage .360: three-point percentage
.706: free throw percentage .653: free throw percentage
While Gonzaga’s résumé highlights its offensive prowess, Arizona has utilized its defensive ability to stifle opponents and effectively slow the game down. The Wildcats rank No. 1 in the country in effective defensive efficiency, allowing only 87.7 points per 100 possessions.
Over his 15 years at the helm of Gonzaga’s basketball program, head coach Mark Few has posted a 403-99 (.803) record – the highest winning percentage among active coaches in the NCAA – and last year, led the Bulldogs to their first No. 1 AP Top 25 ranking in school history.
In the teams’ lone NCAA tournament matchup in 2003, Arizona also entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed.
Few’s take on Arizona:
“To take over that No. 1 spot, hold it for as long of a time as they did, and to continue [to] earn that No. 1 seed – dealing with the significant injury like they did with Ashley – I think Sean [Miller] and his players just deserve a ton of credit for that,” Few said. “Their defense has been off the charts, that’s probably the biggest thing. Nick Johnson has had an amazing year. … They’re a No. 1 seed for a reason.”
Miller on Gonzaga:
“I think any coach would say we’re getting ready to play as well-coached, as balanced of an attack as you can face offensively,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “What they’re able to do with their guards, their perimeter players, and then [to] have two really dynamic low post scorers … it’s really difficult to defend them and will test our defense. Then when we have the ball, they’re really solid. So it’s going to be a great test, I think it’s going to be a terrific game.”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17