Later today, the Zags will make a run at their second-consecutive Elite Eight appearance. The big difference is this time around, Gonzaga is attempting the feed as a No. 11 seed.
Seemingly, in any other year, the odds would be stacked against them. But instead of facing the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans, the Zags will face off against the No. 10 Syracuse Orange and their well-known 2-3 zone.
The Zags are heading into the game favored according to Las Vegas. But as we know in March Madness, being favored by a bunch of people waving paper tickets really doesn't mean much. After all, Michigan State was favored and look where that got them.
We've talked a lot about the Syracuse zone, but we haven't focused as much on the Gonzaga defense. Defense is going to be the talking point of this game. The Zags' defense rank No. 2 out of teams in the Sweet 16, allowing just 0.829 points per possession. The No. 3 team just happens to be Syracuse, who allow 0.831 points per possession.
Syracuse looked good against Dayton and Middle Tennessee to make it to this game. Gonzaga looked better against Utah to make it to the Sweet 16. This game is going to be a grind, and it is one that realistically either team can win.
The famed Syracuse zone is enough to give any team fits. Gonzaga coaches admitted that they have tried their best to prepare for it, but then every team that faces the zone also admits you can't prepare for it until you see it. Syracuse is long and athletic and will look to make exploit the Zags on that.
But Gonzaga has Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. We also have a defense that is playing virtually better than any defense in the NCAA Tournament. The big question is if the Zags can bust through the zone, but the other big one is if the Orange have enough offense to bust down the Zags. Within the past month, Gonzaga has shown it can win grind out games (Seton Hall), and also that it can win games with teams that love to run (BYU x2).
We've tried to focus as much on this game as possible this week. We talked with Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and they also talked with us. We broke down the Syracuse game tape and talked about how the Zags are on the verge of something great.
After the test that was Seton Hall and the test that was Utah, there is nothing that suggests Gonzaga can't win this game. The Zags have shown up to play and that will alone has been enough. Now, they face off against a team that a lot of people say wasn't supposed to be in the tournament in the first place. Syracuse is playing with that exact same passion, and what this game will come down to is the team that executes their game plan the best.
Time: 6:40 pm PT
TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Lewis Johnson)
RADIO: 1510 KGA/Sirius XM/TuneIn App (Tom Hudson, Matt Santangelo)