6:40 p.m. Sunday in San Diego(TBS)
Record: 29-6 overall
Seed: West No. 8
|G||Gary Bell Jr.||6-2||Jr||11.4||2.9||1.7|
|F||Sam Dower Jr.||6-9||Sr||14.6||7.2||1.1|
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Record: 31-4 overall
Seed: West No. 1
Who has the edge
On the perimeter: Both teams favor three-guard attacks. Arizona has risen to a new level with Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell, a heady complement to athletic Pac-12 player of the year Nick Johnson, who can shoot, drive and defend. Gabe York is a three-point specialist. For the Zags, David Stockton plays the point alongside Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos, who combined for 43 points against Oklahoma State. Bell has played at a superior level lately, and against OSU, Pangos looked like much the player he was before a nagging case of turf toe. Edge: Even.
Among the bigs: Arizona, which lost forward Brandon Ashley for the season in February, features ample 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, springy freshman forward Aaron Gordon and athletic frosh Rondae Hollis-Jefferson off the bench. Tarczewski is more advanced offensively than Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski, while Gordon is perpetually active, a dogged rebounder but not yet offensively skilled. Hollis-Jefferson might be the best athlete on the floor. The Zags’ Sam Dower is skilled offensively but not the equal of Gordon, with whom he will probably match up, as a rebounder. The Zags might need to turn to reserve Angel Nunez for athleticism. Edge: Arizona.
Coach: Arizona’s Sean Miller has never lost to a lower-seeded team in the tournament and has an Elite Eight appearance both in Tucson and at Xavier. Gonzaga’s Mark Few has his team in the NCAA round of 32 for the sixth consecutive year. Edge: Even.
The story line
Arizona, top seed in the West region, tries to move to Anaheim for the Sweet 16 by beating Gonzaga, while the Zags attempt to pull the upset that would get them to the second weekend for the first time since 2009. It’s also a matchup of a memorable, double-overtime game in 2003 — same juncture, same seeds — won by Arizona 96-95, and still shown on ESPN Classic.
They aren’t dissimilar, with both teams happy to push the pace but willing to run sets to get open shots. Both play predominantly man-to-man, and Arizona’s is recognized as perhaps the best in the country in 2014, while KenPom.com puts the Zags at No. 16 on defense. Both teams will push the pace, but both average out relatively methodical in tempo, Gonzaga at No. 168 nationally and Arizona at 274.
When they’re struggling
Arizona has sometimes found scoring a challenge; it made 2 of 11 three-point shots in each of its defeats at California and Oregon. The Zags often have been riddled at this level by opposing three-pointers, and they can struggle with elite athleticism.
Biggest question mark for Gonzaga is whether its front line can hold up against Arizona, and whether the Zags can neutralize the Wildcats on the boards. If they do, expect a good one. Arizona, 68-66.