Is it possible for Friday to somehow top the incredible day of basketball that we were all just able to witness? Even without Gonzaga playing, I feel emotionally drained watching all of the last second finishes and clutch shots that have set this up to be a truly special NCAA Tournament. However, with the first day behind us, that means that it is time for Gonzaga to take the court and extend their season for at least another 48 hours.
We have obviously covered Florida St. from every conceivable angle over the past week, and I would have to believe that anyone that steadily reads this blog is now familiar with the athleticism and length that guys like Chris Singleton and Solomon Alabi will bring to the table tomorrow night. The Seminoles will provide Gonzaga with the most difficult defensive match up they have faced all season, and the Zags will need to get out on the fast break and try to score easy points, because it will be very difficult to get clean looks against Florida St.
Obviously, there is no way of knowing of what Gonzaga team we will see tomorrow. If we see the tough and gritty team that won in Maui, won at Illinois, and won at Memphis, then I firmly believe that we will have to start getting more information together about Syracuse/Vermont for everyone to consume before Sunday night. However, if we see anything like how this team played over the final three weeks of the season, it will be time to write the obituary on this season and move on to 2011 recruiting coverage.The key defeating a team that is so dominant on the defensive end is to find as many easy buckets as possible over the course of 40 minutes. Rob Sacre and Elias Harris must not only be dominant on the defensive glass, they must also look to get the ball out to the guards and lead the fast break. This Gonzaga team is at its best when it is playing fast and pushing the tempo throughout the game. If they can minimize the time that Florida St. has to set the defense and get physical in the half court, then I feel very confident about the result.
On the defensive end of the court, Gonzaga will likely spend the majority of the time in a 2-3 zone. Florida St. is not a good shooting team, and they also have a propensity to commit silly turnovers when they are pressured or taking out of their comfort zone. One key change I would make on the defensive end is extending the 2-3 zone out even farther. Instead of allowing Florida St. to sit around the perimeter, I would like to see Meech and Steven push the top of the zone farther out, and make the Seminoles beat the defense with their passing and decision-making.
I have gone back-and-forth on this game since the second that this match up was announced. I love the fact that Gonzaga has had so much time to rest and get a break from basketball after the grueling season they played. I hate the fact that Florida St. is the type of physical and athletic team that has given the Zags so many problems recently. However, I keep sensing that this team is ready to return to the form that made them so captivating and great in the beginning of the season. Behind a great performance from the "Big Three" of Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray, and Elias Harris, the Zags will pull off the 74-65 victory.