It seems that every article I read about the upcoming NCAA Tournament focuses on a basketball expert discussing who will win the inevitable Arizona vs. Oklahoma St matchup in the Round of 32. While that would certainly be a tantalizing game, Gonzaga is more than capable of playing spoile.
Here are three things the Zags must do in order to advance to the Round of 32:
1) Play With Confidence: There is no doubt that Oklahoma St. has more NBA talent on its roster. It has a likely Top 5 pick, and two other guys that will certainly play on an NBA roster. However, despite the talent, this isn't a team that has dominated the competition. In games away from Gallagher-Iba Arena, the 'Pokes have a record of 7-10. Of those seven wins, only three came against teams with a record above .500. While much has been made of the strong finish they had, only two of the victories down the stretch came against teams with an above .500 record. There is no denying that the home wins over Kansas and Kansas St. were impressive, but this is not a team that has lit it up in 2014 against good competition.
2) Feed The Bigs: This team has been at its best when the offense is run through Sam Dower and Karno. This will have to be the case again on Friday, as OSU is a team that relies on its perimeter scorers to win. The Cowboys have four guys that average in double-figures, and all four of them are guards. Their best post option is Kamari Murphy, who averages 6.0 ppg and 6.2 rpg. This isn't a team that was built to contain a tandem like Dower and Karno. If OSU decides to play zone, the game will ultimately be determined by how the perimeter group for Gonzaga shoots it from the perimeter.
3) Get Kevin Pangos Going: It's not likely that the Gonzaga guards will outscore the talented trio of Marcus Smart, Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown. However, if the combo of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, David Stockton and Kyle Dranginis can put together a strong day, I really like the chances of a victory. Looking back at the latter half of the season, it became clear that Pangos hasn't played a game to his full ability since the win over BYU in Spokane. On that night, Pangos scored 24 points and dished out seven assists. While Pangos has scored in double-figures six times since then, he only shot over 50% from the field once in those six games. If there was ever a chance for Pangos to return to 100%, it was during the 10 days off between the WCC title game and tip-off on Friday. In my opinion, a healthy and fully-functioning Pangos means a win for Gonzaga