Representing the # 2 and # 11 seeds of the West bracket, the 34-2 Gonzaga Bulldogs will face off against the 22-13 UCLA Bruins in the round of 16 Friday night. Both teams advanced to the next round with impressive double digit wins. Gonzaga blew out a very good Iowa team by 19 points and the Bruins handily beat the UAB Blazers by 17 points. Both teams have offenses that seem to be flourishing as the Bruins put up 92 points and had 5 different players score in double figures. The Bulldogs scored 87 points in their victory with 4 different players scoring at least 10 points and the team racking up 20 assists.
UCLA shot over 60 % from the field in their win over UAB by making 35 out of their 58 shot attempts. Tony Parker led all scorers with 28 points but also had 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. He wasn’t the only Bruin with a double-double as Kevin Looney added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore guard Bryce Alford chipped in with 22 points including three 3 point baskets. As a team they out rebounded the Blazers 41-26 and played much more aggressively as they went to the free throw line 25 times. If there is a negative it is that they lost the turnover battle 13-8 and will have to do a better job of holding onto the ball if they wish to upset the heavily favored Bulldogs.
Gonzaga is in the Tournament for the 17th consecutive year and looks every bit like the # 2 seed they were given with 2 blowout victories so far. They are unquestionably led by forward Kyle Wiltjer who is a finalist this year for the John Wooden Award which is the top honor given to a college basketball player. So far this tournament he has put up 47 points and 15 rebounds in just 2 games. Even more impressive is that he is shooting 75 % from the field as he has made 18 out of the 24 shots he has taken. Guard Kevin Pangos has been a consistent sidekick to Wiltjer all season but even more so this March. For the season he averaged 11 points but has increased that average to 17 so far this tournament while only averaging 1 turnover per game. Freshman Forward Domantas Sabonis scored 18 points off the bench in their last victory over Iowa giving them 3 legitimate offensive threats.
UCLA has fared better against the spread than Gonzaga this year as they have went 19-16 ATS while Gonzaga has went 17-15-1. Gonzaga also hasn’t done well recently as a high seed as the last two times that they were either a # 1 or # 2 seed they failed to even make the round of 16. Back in 2004 they were a 2 seed but were upset by a # 10 seed and in 2013 they were a # 1 seed and lost to # 9 seed Wichita State in the round of 32. These 2 teams met on December 13 and Gonzaga won handily 87-74.
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