Gonzaga tips off at 6 p.m. PST against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on ESPN2. The key for the Zags is for them to never, ever play on ESPNU. If you are watching Gonzaga on ESPNU, it means they have lost their opening round game. I have respect for the Cowboys but the Zags should win this battle.
If they do prevail, Gonzaga will likely take on Michigan State unless they falter against Maryland. That game would tip off at 2:30 p.m. PST. The other side of the bracket has 3 teams that could win the tournament. Siena, Tennessee, and Georgetown all await the winner of the bottom bracket. The goal for the Zags is the championship game which will be at 4:30 PST.
Here is a look at the teams that will be competing for the Old Spice crown, we'll have a larger breakdown on Oklahoma State tomorrow.
Oklahoma State Cowboys/ Big 12/ (4-0)
- Last Season's Results: 17-16 (9th in the Big 12 at 7-9)
- Players to Watch: Every guard they have is supremely talented. James Anderson (20points per game so far), Terrel Harris (18 points a game), and Byron Eaton (5 assists per game) lead the insane pace for the Cowboys.
- What they win with: Oklahoma State hoisted up 39 three point shots against Grambling State in a game this year. If they get hot, they can beat anyone. They will push the tempo but live or die on the outside shot. If they're cold, they can be run out of the gym.
- Why they'll struggle: They have little interior presence. Ibrahima Thomas (10 ppg) is their only real post presence. Unlike Gonzaga, a majority of the Cowboys rebounding comes from the guards. Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye should be salivating.
- Match Up Problem for the Zags: James Anderson. Any of these guards for Oky State can light it up but Anderson is one of the best players in the Big 12 and maybe the nation. He's under the radar but should make a statement in the Old Spice.
- Can they win the Old Spice? Live by the three, die by the three is what they'll go by. With that mantra, I don't think they can. Until they get some sort of post presence, they can't compete with the best in the nation.
- Last Season's Results: 19-15 (6th in the ACC at 8-8)
- Players to Watch: Remember Greivis Vasquez? The point guard that many thought would be a Zag is a Terp and he is a good one. Vasquez has a great stat line this year with 22 points and nearly 8 boards a game. He also adds 5 assists a game. I really like guard Adrian Bowie as well. He brings a ton of energy and has 10 points a game so far. He'll play alot.
- What they win with: They play a tough style of basketball under one of the best coaches in the nation, Gary Williams. They major thing they do is play solid defense. Williams has always stressed defense and this team is no different.
- Why they'll struggle: I always thought Maryland would be a team that is always at the top of the ACC but they really don't have the talent they once had. Vasquez, while talented, tends to play extremely reckless and thus leading to turnovers.
- Match Up Problem for the Zags: Gonzaga won't play against many guards the size of Vasquez. At 6'6'', he's extremely tall and that is a major reason why he leads the team in rebounding (as well as every other major stat category). He's going to be a decently tough match up in case they unlikely scenario happens and these two teams play.
- Can they win the Old Spice: A lack of talent and a turnover prone star guard spell trouble when you are playing a Tom Izzo team. I don't expect the Terps to advance into the championship bracket.
- Last Season's Results: 27-9 (4th in the Big 10 at 12-6)
- Players to Watch: You would be hard pressed to find a better combo than point guard Kalin Lucas and forward Raymar Morgan. Lucas is a pure point guard that has averaged 15 points and 6 assists a game. Morgan is a highlight reel who is averaging 22 points per game.
- What they win with: Michigan State can wear you down. There is no team that mimics their head coach more than the Spartans. They are an extremely tough team and defend well. Michigan State won't do many things wrong, so if you are going to beat them, you have to be nearly perfect.
- Why they'll struggle: Injuries are the only thing really holding this team back. Delvon Roe, one of the best freshman in the nation, is still working back from a micro fracture surgery and big man Goran Suton may not be playing due to lingering knee problems.
- Match Up Problems for the Zags: I have been praying for this match up since the bracket came out. Lucas is good but so is Jeremy Pargo. They tough match up will be Raymar Morgan. Morgan is a 6'8'', super athletic forward who will make life tough. Look for Ira Brown to match up with him. He's the best option to match Morgan's athleticism and speed.
- Can they win the Old Spice? Absolutely. This is one of the top teams in the nation and they are very experienced. I'm glad the Zags might possibly match up with them now because they get better as the season goes along. If Lucas plays to his potential, watch out. I'm not sure if they have the depth to go all the way without Goran Suton, however.
- Last Season's Results: 11-20 (9th in the Missouri Valley Conference at 4-14)
- Players to Watch: This is an extremely young Shocker team and they are paced by two freshmen. Garrett Stuzt is a big 7 footer who is averaging 13 points a game but only three boards. Toure' Murry is a very athletic guard who is averaging 12 points a game.
- What they win with: This is an exciting, young team to watch. They return only one starter from last season so you really don't know what to expect from the Shockers. They can surprise someone if their freshmen get hot. Stutz and Murry have been extraordinary thus far but haven't really been tested. They'll have growing pains but the future looks good.
- Why they'll struggle: The main reason is because they are playing Georgetown. This is a really tough match up for the Shockers because their are only a few teams in the nation more fundamentally sound than the Hoyas. The youth movement is in action for Wichita but it is not going to happen overnight.
- Match Up Problem for the Zags: If this match up happens, I'd be stunned. They'd have to meet in the consolation championship which I don't think either team will be in. The one guy I like for the Shockers is veteran Ramon Clemente. At 6'6'', 230 pounds, Clemente is a load and leads the team with nearly 12 rebounds a game. He's in the Ira Brown mold and does everything for his team.
- Can they win the Old Spice? Sorry Shockers, it's just not going to happen. There are too many good teams in this tournament.
- Last Season's Results: 27-5 (1st in the Big East at 15-3)
- Players to Watch: They Hoyas have one of the best front court combos in the country. Freshman Greg Monroe has been sensational in his first two collegiate games. He's got a college-ready figure and has averaged 17 points and 8 boards a game. DaJuan Summers has all the tools to be a top player in the nation. The athletic forward can do everything. He's struggled to reach his potential thus far, but if he can reach it he will be a star.
- What they win with: The teams in this tournament could star in a fundamentals video. Georgetown is led by John Thompson III who, much like is father, is tough nosed and big on the half court game. They are great in the set offense and wear teams down alot like Washington State. The prefer a slow tempo because JT III stresses the backdoor offense.
- Why they'll struggle: The Hoyas are in a mini-transition phase. The loss of Jonathan Wallace and Roy Hibbert means they are without a lot of their production from a season ago. The jury is still out on Greg Monroe and if he can come in and be consistent. Their is also a pretty big lack of depth on this team. Their starting five is excellent, but their are questions on their bench.
- Match Up Problem for the Zags: This was a game I really wanted to see in the second round of the NCAA tournament (fricken Steph Curry). I think the clash of tempos for this team will be fun to watch. The Zags run early and often. The Hoyas are more content to hang back and let the game come to them instead of forcing the action. Whoever the tempo of this game favors will win because the Zags aren't good at slowing down and the Hoyas aren't good at running.
- Can they win the Old Spice? This is the team I think will win the top half of the bracket, so yes. I'm a sucker for the Thompson family and think they are great coaches. They'll walk through Wichita State but will have tough tests in the next two games. Their solid guard play should really help them out as well.
- Last Season's Results: 23-11 (1st in the MAAC at 13-5)
- Players to Watch: Kenny Hasbrouck is one of the best players that you have never heard of. The powerful guard is averaging 21 points a game so far this season and can also work the glass. Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles are excellent options at the wing/post for the Saints. They are both averaging in double figures and have loads of talent to work with.
- What they win with: Siena can score in bunches and that is what they rely on. Their defense is nothing to write home about but their offense is outstanding. Much like Gonzaga, they like to run on teams and they can typically out hustle and score anyone. The key for them is a consistent back court. If Hasbrouck keeps lighting it up, this team could become very dangerous.
- Why they'll struggle: As I mentioned, Siena's defense has historically been their weak point. The Saints are not a good team when it comes to defending the perimeter and opponents shot 37% from beyond the arc against them last year. They often force the action which means they are not a very good rebounding team. They get a great deal of one-shot possessions which can kill you against teams like Georgetown, Tennessee etc...
- Match Up Problem for the Zags: I love this match up for Gonzaga, except for one major thing and that is perimeter defense. So far, the Zags have shown that they have become a much better defensive team but if this game was to happen, we would know very fast just how good they are. Siena can shoot from anywhere and can run around the opponent. Perimeter D has killed Gonzaga in the past and it could haunt them if they have not improved.
- Can they win the Old Spice? I like this team a whole lot and think they can make a nice run in this tournament. I don't, however, think they can win the tourney. The Tennessee-Siena match up is probably the most intriguing round one game in this tournament. It can go either way and if Siena wins, who knows what they are capable of.
- Last Season's Results: 29-4 (1st in the SEC at 14-2)
- Players to Watch: Arguably the best player in the SEC is Tyler Smith. The 6'7'' junior forward is averaging 19 points a game on the young season and can do a little bit of everything. Wayne Chism runs the paint for the Volunteers and is averaging around 10 rebounds a game for the Vols. Watch out for freshman guard Scotty Hopson, he's absolutely sensational.
- What they win with: The Volunteers have a lot of 'tweeners, guys that don't really fit any sort of position but they are great basketball players. Chism and Tyler Smith are two players that are probably undersized against most in the country but are so versatile that they present teams with match up nightmares. They're front court is dangerous and their guards oozes athleticism.
- Why they'll struggle: Much like Georgetown, this team is in a mini-transition. The loss of JaJuan Smith and Chris Lofton takes away a lot of production. It's a relatively inexperienced team that will count on their athleticism to generate offense. Especially in their back court, the Vols will have some struggles but overall it's such a talented team that their won't be much drop off from last year.
- Match Up Problem for the Zags: Gonzaga was extremely frustrated with Tennessee in their match up last season. I think the key here is making sure the athleticism of the Vols doesn't surprise the Zags. Last year they struggled to keep up with them and the ran Gonzaga out of the gym. The major issue will be Tyler Smith and Chism and it will be interesting to see how Heytvelt and Daye deal with them.
- Can they win the Old Spice? I'm probably the most excited to see Tennessee this year. They are a big question mark for me because they should have a much different look than last year's team. The talent is there but the inexperience could hold them back. If they sleep on Siena, they will be in the consolation bracket before they know it. Siena will not be afraid of the name on the front of their opponents jersey.
Looking at these little breakdowns of the opposing teams, you have to feel confident if you are a Gonzaga fan. I don't think any team in the field has as much talent combined with experience as Gonzaga. Michigan State may be close but injuries are going to affect them.
Like Chris Sprow of ESPN told us, Gonzaga can beat every one of these teams but can also lose to 80% of them on any given night. This is a very true statement because you are probably going to see three games in this tournament that you could wind up seeing in the sweet sixteen. Just think about that. If Michigan State plays Gonzaga and Tennessee plays Georgetown, you are looking at four teams that can all make valid claims that they could compete for a final four.