View Full Version : Andy Katz's Preview of the game

03-23-2009, 06:22 AM
Andy is previewing all of the games - and also doing a look back at what's happened so far - on the ESPN website (http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/ncaatourney09/columns/story?columnist=katz_andy&id=4007346).

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Gonzaga, Friday, 9:57 p.m. ET

No. 1 North Carolina
How did the Tar Heels get here? North Carolina whacked Radford 101-58 in the first round and then had a legitimate scare from LSU in the second before pulling away with a 14-point win.

The win over the Tigers was significant for a number of reasons. The Tar Heels got Ty Lawson back for the game, were able to come back after losing a lead, and showed the ability to deliver a knock out punch. North Carolina had done that before during this season, but being able to do it again in the NCAAs tells a different story.

The one question for the Tar Heels coming into the tournament was whether Lawson would play and if he did how effective he would be after missing two ACC tournament games. He sat out the first-round game and then dominated the ball in the second. The quest for the title can now go on without an asterisk on Lawson's availability.

Who's hot? Lawson and Wayne Ellington have the scorching hands at this juncture. Lawson scored 23 points with six assists and no turnovers while Ellington made 9 of 16 shots, 3 of 6 from 3 and dished out four assists en route to 23 points against the Tigers.

Who's not? Deon Thompson's minutes are dropping, but that's not a bad thing when Ed Davis comes off the bench for 25 minutes, makes 4 of 6 shots, grabs seven boards and scores nine points. Thompson played only 15 minutes and made all three of the shots, but had only one board in the win over the Tigers.

What does this mean for the program? The Tar Heels expect to be in the Sweet 16 every season. This team is projected to win the title. So reaching Memphis is just another stop on the tour to Detroit. The Tar Heels continue to be one of the standards in the sport and reaching yet another Sweet 16 is another example of their excellence.

Drama factor so far? There has been plenty with Lawson's toe and the Tigers provided a good scare for the Tar Heels as UNC trailed by five points midway through the second half. The talk of the toe should die down but the drama may not with a difficult bracket still ahead in Memphis.

No. 4 Gonzaga
How did the Bulldogs get here? No team reached the Sweet 16 with as much flare as the Zags. Demetri Goodson finished off Western Kentucky with a layup in the final second to beat the Hilltoppers 83-81 in Portland.

Goodson's bucket was the play of the tournament so far as the Zags got to the Sweet 16 for the first time since a tough loss to UCLA in Oakland back in 2006. Gonzaga's 13-point win over Akron was no walk, either. The Zags trailed by three at the half and had to gut out the first 12 minutes of the second half before pulling away.

Who's hot? The easy answer is Goodson, but that was only one of his two buckets. The consistent players have been Matt Bouldin and Jeremy Pargo. The starting backcourt combined to make 13 of 26 shots, 6 of 11 from 3 and 38 points in the win over Western Kentucky. If the Zags are to have any chance of upsetting North Carolina, they need this pair to make perimeter shots.

Who's not? Austin Daye is still a difficult matchup and the Zags could use a bust-out game from him. Daye got into foul trouble against the Hilltoppers with four and he did have four turnovers to go along with 4 of 9 shooting (1 of 2 from 3). Daye scored only 10 points in the win over Akron and had just seven in the win over Saint Mary's to claim the WCC title. Daye has had one breakout game (28 against Santa Clara) in the past month and he has registered five single-digit scoring games in the past 12 outings.

What does this mean for the program? The Zags have their best shot to get to the Final Four since the 2006 Adam Morrison team. That may sound ridiculous considering that was just three seasons ago. But the Zags are deeper and more balanced than that squad. And getting to the Sweet 16 is yet another example of validating their place as a national program.

Drama factor so far? The Zags own this department with the Goodson bucket to beat the Hilltoppers. That is the highlight of the tourney so far.

03-23-2009, 06:35 AM
Love it! This is what it's all about!!!


03-23-2009, 07:47 AM
I like our chances vs. UNC. If we can play UNC the way Akron and WKU played & fought us, anything can happen. And we have been there twice now, and prevailed.

A few more boards underneath, more even performance by the few who haven't had their breakout moments yet, and our picture is complete.

We have had our drama games. We need to shore up the disparate elements.

if we can pool and pull this talent into the 40 minute timeframe inside the next game, well, we CAN beat anybody.

and anybody this week just happens to be UNC because we worked hard all year to get here and have earned the right to advance, which, by necessity, will be right through them.

This week is the time to focus, fight and finish.

Go TEAM Zags !

03-23-2009, 08:55 AM
Best part? Zags back to being the underdog.

03-23-2009, 09:05 AM
Here it is: "The Zags are no longer the darlings of college basketball. The Cinderella tag is long gone. This is an elite program that recruits at a high level and finds players who will flirt with the NBA. Gonzaga plays a national schedule, is consistently ranked and receives plenty of praise from the selection committee, as evident by a No. 4 seed.

As long as Mark Few doesn't get tempted to leave, the Zags will remain a player nationally. But the fact is, since reaching at least the Sweet 16 each season from 1999-2001, Gonzaga has been back to that round just once -- when an Adam Morrison-led team lost a heartbreaker to UCLA in a 2006 regional semifinal.

As for these Zags, they are playing their best basketball heading into the NCAA tournament for the first time in years. Gonzaga comes in on a roll, easily sweeping through the WCC tournament. It had nothing to do with the conference tournament not being held on a campus this season but rather on a neutral court in Las Vegas. Gonzaga was the better team from start to finish and it wasn't close.

The Zags have two seniors, point guard Jeremy Pargo and forward Josh Heytvelt, who have proven they can play with anyone in the country. Matt Bouldin and Micah Downs are playing their best basketball, and Austin Daye is always capable of becoming a mismatch. A 4-seed usually has to take down a No. 1 in the Sweet 16 if it's going to advance to the Elite Eight. The Zags drew North Carolina. If, and this is a big if, the Zags play up to their potential, and the Tar Heels' Ty Lawson isn't 100 percent, this is doable and means the Zags have a credible shot to make the Final Four."

03-23-2009, 09:07 AM
I honestly think that a Gonzaga playing its A game can beat a UNC playing its A game.

That said, I hope Gonzaga comes out with an A+ effort vs. UNC's B+ effort 'cuz I would love to get to the Elite Eight comfortably.

03-23-2009, 09:18 AM
Daye is the key to winning (or losing) this game. If Pargo, Matt, Stephen, Micah and Josh can continue bringing their energy, the final piece will be Daye. Against WKU the Zags were a much better 5 with Daye on the bench. They cannot afford that against a long UNC team. Austin will have to have a breakout game and the perimeter shooting must fall for the Zags.

03-23-2009, 09:29 AM
Honestly the only trend that needs to be reversed is starting games slowly.