(1) Gonzaga vs. (9) Wichita State
(1) Gonzaga Bulldogs
A No. 16 seed has still never beaten a top seed, but few have put up as tough of a fight as the Southern Jaguars did against the Bulldogs. The Jaguars refused to go away and were within one with less than two minutes remaining, but Kevin Pangos took over from there and the Bulldogs’ defense locked down as they avoided being on the wrong side of history 64-58. Kelly Olynyk was huge for the Bulldogs, posting 21 points and matching Derick Beltran for game-high honors, and 10 rebounds. It’s important not to overreact to this close game and use it as reasoning to doubt the Bulldogs going forward. They weren’t the only high seed to have some opening day jitters, but what’s most important is that they were poised late and didn’t panic. The Shockers are going to be the stiffest competition they’ve faced in the calendar year. Getting to the Sweet 16 will require the Bulldogs to execute like they’re capable of offensively and defending the three-ball well.
(9) Wichita State Shockers
Cleanthony Early and Malcolm Armstead combined for 43 points and the Shockers easily dispatched the Pittsburgh Panthers 73-55. Armstead and Early were the only Shockers who could really get going against the Panthers’ stiff defense. Carl Hall contributed 11, but nobody else on the team had more than two field goals made. Collectively they could not have been better defensively, though. The Panthers shot 35 percent from the field, five percent from deep and turned it over 15 times. With the Bulldogs, they are going against a different kind of animal offensively. The Bulldogs can really attack them on the inside and have solid guard play to handle the defensive pressure and keep the floor spaced. The Shockers are going to have to play a physical brand of defense and shoot far better than they did against Pittsburgh, when they missed 30 of their 49 attempts and only made two threes.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Gonzaga. We’re going to chalk the Bulldogs’ struggles up to opening game jitters and have them responding in a major way against the Shockers.