(9) Wichita State Shockers vs. (1) Gonzaga Bulldogs (-6.5, 128.5)
A shaky first outing was survived and top-seeded Gonzaga hopes to give a much stronger performance against ninth-seeded Wichita State with an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 berth on the line Saturday in Salt Lake City. The top-ranked Bulldogs were given quite a scare by 16th-seeded Southern and didn’t secure the 64-58 victory until the final half-minute. The Shockers had a much easier time by routing Pittsburgh 73-55. Wichita State lacks star power, but is strong defensively.
The Zags put on brave faces after Thursday’s victory despite being one of the few No. 1 seeds severely challenged by a 16 seed. “Any win in the tournament is a good win,” junior forward Kelly Olynyk said after the team’s 15th consecutive victory. “So we have to kind of take that into consideration and then moving forward, we’ve got some stuff we can work on.” The Shockers aren’t intimidated by Gonzaga and are planning for a fierce battle. “Playing angry, toughness, going out and give it your all,” senior guard Malcolm Armstead said. “Not leaving anything on the floor. You’ve got to leave it all on the floor at the end of the day.”
TV: 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT GONZAGA (32-2): Olynyk started slow against Southern before cranking it up and scoring 17 of his 21 points in the second half. The West Coast Conference Player of the Year took a more aggressive approach over the final 20 minutes and it paid off. “In the second half, I really just had to focus on finishing plays,” said Olynyk, who also grabbed 10 rebounds for his fifth career double-double. Bulldogs coach Mark Few said there was extra emphasis placed on working the ball into Olynyk. Sophomore guard Kevin Pangos also played well and made four 3-pointers en route to 16 points.
ABOUT WICHITA STATE (27-8): Armstead had 22 points and junior forward Cleanthony Early added 21 against Pittsburgh, but a player who had only six points also was one of the heroes. Sophomore guard Tekele Cotton pestered Panthers’ leading scorer Tray Woodall to two points on 1-of-12 shooting and recorded a career-best five steals. “Malcolm called him a free safety - I think he’s more of a strong safety,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. “I think he’s going to come up and help in run support. He’s a tremendous athlete.” Senior forward Carl Hall (12.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) will be a key player against a Gonzaga squad with a strong frontcourt. Hall has posted five consecutive double-digit outings and has 43 blocks, second on Wichita State behind senior center Ehimen Orukpe’s 54.
* Under is 4-0 in Bulldogs’ last four neutral site games.
* Over is 4-1 in Shockers’ last five overall.
* Bulldogs are 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 games following an ATS loss.
1. Wichita State is 1-6 when playing the nation’s top-ranked team.
2. The Shockers are aiming to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.
3. The Bulldogs made eight 3-pointers against Southern and are 12-0 when making eight or more in a game this season.
(14) Harvard Crimson vs. (6) Arizona Wildcats (-10, 132.5)
Harvard will try to become the third No. 14 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 when it plays sixth-seeded Arizona on Saturday in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. Chattanooga in 1997 was the last No. 14 seed to win its first two games. The Crimson have a shot if they play like they did in their tournament opener, shooting 52.4 percent in the 68-62 victory against third-seeded New Mexico. The Wildcats looked strong as well, shooting 56.9 percent in an 81-64 victory against Belmont.
Arizona should be able to take advantage of its interior height against Harvard. New Mexico 7-foot sophomore center Alex Kirk put up 22 points and 12 rebounds against the undersized front line for the Crimson. Arizona has its own 7-footer in the middle, freshman Kaleb Tarczewski, with freshmen forwards Grant Jerrett (6-10) and Brandon Ashley (6-8) coming off the bench. Kenyatta Smith, the 6-8 sophomore center for Harvard, needs to avoid the foul trouble that kept him on the bench for long stretches against New Mexico.
TV: 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT ARIZONA (26-7): Mark Lyons had his best game in six weeks in the tournament opener, scoring a team-high 23 points. The senior transfer from Xavier has been playing out of position at point guard the entire season, but appears to be more comfortable with the ball-handling responsibilities. He hasn’t turned the ball over more than twice in the last three games, something he struggled with at times this season. His defense will be just as important against the Crimson, who are sixth in the nation in 3-point shooting (40.3 percent).
ABOUT HARVARD (20-9): Arizona and Harvard haven’t played since 1977 but that doesn’t mean some players haven’t crossed paths. Arizona has six players with Southern California ties and Harvard has two; Smith and Wesley Saunders, the team’s leading scorer (16.5). Saunders, a 6-5 sophomore guard, has reached double figures in scoring in every game this season, including a team-high 18 points in the second-round upset against New Mexico. Another player that can’t be left alone is shooting guard Laurent Rivard, who’s shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range.
* Crimson are 5-0 ATS in their last five games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Wildcats are 4-0 ATS in their last four NCAA Tournament games.
* Under is 22-4 in Wildcats’ last 26 Saturday games.
1. Arizona senior F Solomon Hill is eight points from moving into 20th in career scoring at the school and three rebounds from moving into 10th. Six former Wildcats rank in the top 20 in career scoring and top 10 in rebounding.
2. Of the 210 shots Rivard has taken this season, 193 have come from 3-point range.
3. Arizona is 26-5 all-time against teams seeded 10th through 16th in the NCAA Tournament.