#1 Gonzaga vs. #16 South Dakota State
Thursday, March 16, 2017 (2 PM ET, TBS)
32-1 (17-1 WCC)
Player to Watch: Nigel Williams-Goss (16.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.8 APG)
A transfer from Washington, Williams-Goss has been the man this year for Gonzaga. His outstanding playmaking ability benefits not only him scoring the ball, but also his teammates as he is excellent at finding the open man which leads to easy buckets. Containing Williams-Goss is near to impossible and he’ll be a tough matchup for South Dakota State.
X-Factor: Play Gonzaga Basketball
I know it’s very cliche, but in order for Gonzaga to win, they must play their style of basketball. Many critics are saying Gonzaga has the best chance to be the first number one seed to go down to a sixteen seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament. In order for that not to be the case, the ‘Zags need to realize how dominant they are and play the way that earned them a number one seed in the tourney.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits
18-16 (8-8 Summit)
Player to Watch: Mike Daum (25.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.4 APG)
Daum probably has been experiencing back pains numerous times this season. No, that does not mean he’s the only good player on South Dakota State, Daum is a stud. In the Summit League Championship, Daum scored 37 points to go along with 12 boards in the 79-77 win over Nebraska-Omaha. A few weeks beforehand, Daum poured in 51 in a win against Fort Wayne which is tied for the most points scored this season by an individual player.
X-Factor: Stay within Striking Distance
The Jackrabbits aren’t expected to win this game. The only people that think they can is probably the players and coaching staff. With that being said, what does South Dakota State have to lose? If SDSU can keep it close throughout the game, we’ve seen Gonzaga in the past freak out like they’ve never played basketball before in those types of late game situations. If shots are starting to fall for the Jackrabbits and Gonzaga can’t get anything going, we could have 1-16 upset boys and girls.
Match-Up to Watch: Gonzaga’s Twin Towers vs. SDSU’s Midgets
South Dakota State has no players on their active roster taller than 6-foot-9. On the other hand, Gonzaga has two 7-footers in Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins who are arguably two of the most dominant big men in the country. It’ll be interesting to see how SDSU handles these two with the height on their own end being so minimal.
Key Stat: ‘Zags Stellar O vs. SDSU’s Horrid D
According to KenPom, Gonzaga is second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency while South Dakota State is 307th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Well, statistically, these two teams are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum in those categories. If Gonzaga gets in a groove early on offense and SDSU can’t hold them, it could get ugly quick.
Prediction: #1 Gonzaga 85, #16 South Dakota State 62
As much as I’d love to see a 16 seed finally advance to the Round of 32, I do not think that will happen in this game. Gonzaga is just too much of a matchup problem inside with Karnowski and Collins and Williams-Goss is just going to be too much for SDSU’s guards. Although I think Mike Daum is going to do all he can to keep his underdog team in it, I don’t think it’ll be enough to knock off the ‘Zags and clinch a berth to the weekend.
Photo via The Ringer