Representing the 2 and 7 seeds in this third round matchup, the 33-2 Gonzaga Bulldogs face off against the 22-11 Iowa Hawkeyes Sunday in the third round of the South region. While both teams are coming off wins, Iowa did so in much more impressive fashion. They beat a 10th seeded Davidson team by 31 points and more impressively only gave up 23 points in the second half. The Bulldogs let # 15 seed North Dakota State score 46 points in the second and let them hang around enough to only beat them by 10.
Iowa as a team shot over 50% in their blowout win over Davidson making 35 of their 69 shots. They dominated the rebounding battle by a 46 to 30 margin. Offensively, 9 different Hawkeyes scored including forward Aaron White who scored 26 points on 9 of 14 shooting making all 3 of his three point attempts. He has been consistently their best player all year leading the team in both scoring and rebounding at 16.3 and 7.5 respectively. Guard Mike Gesell averaged 15 points and passed out six assists per game this year giving Iowa a very formidable 1-2 punch. Gonzaga is a team that has proven to sometimes let teams hang around and Iowa has a deep bench to stay fresh. They are also one of the tallest teams in the nation with 4 starters being at least 6 foot 6 inches tall who spread the court just as good as any other team.
Gonzaga has a prolific offense that has 4 different players averaging double figures in scoring and as a team shoot over 50% from the field. Forward Kyle Wiltjer leads the team in both scoring and rebounding at 23 and 8 per game. Guard Kevin Pangos is second on the team in scoring at 18 points per game while also leading the team in assists at 5 per game. They only have 1 real signature win and that was at Arizona but besides the Wildcats, they only beat 1 other top 25-team and that was SMU when they were # 22 back in November. In Gary Bell Jr. they have the West Coast Conference Defensive player of the year who has provided more offense of late by scoring double digits in their previous 2 games. They will need to keep up the defensive intensity for a full 40 minutes. Iowa was 55th this year in assists with more than 14 per game.
Gonzaga shoots the ball extremely well having made more than 50% of their field goal attempts this year but could face a challenge as Iowa’s defense has limited opponents to making only 39% of their attempts. The Bulldogs had the much better record this year but Iowa fared better against the spread. Gonzaga went 16-15-1 while the Hawkeyes went 16-13. Even though this is Gonzaga’s 17th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, they haven’t advanced past the round of 32 since 2009. This game should go right down to the wire
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