8. Gonzaga Bulldogs (28-6, 16-3 WCC)-Despite the gaudy record, this isn’t a vintage Gonzaga team. The ‘Zags have lost games to Portland, San Diego and Dayton and don’t own any particularly impressive wins. They also needed a buzzer-beater to knock off league cellar dweller Santa Clara in the regular season, and a late layup from David Stockton to beat the Broncs in the WCC tourney.
6-9 center Sam Dower (15 ppg, 7.1 rpg) leads the team in scoring, but he’s not a threat to score 30. He was a consistent, steady force in the middle for the Zags this season. 6-2 guard Kevin Pangos (14.1 ppg) is an excellent three-point shooter at 41%, but he can be streaky. Stockton is small like Pangos but leads the team in assists (4.2 per) and unrealistic blocks.
This is one of the nation’s best shooting teams, knocking down shots at a 49.8% clip. It’s also one of the best three-point shooting clubs, at 39.4%.
9th Points per Possession (1.13)
4th Field Goal Percentage (49.8%)
16th Three Point Percentage (39.4%)
9. Oklahoma State Cowboys (21-12, 8-10 Big 12)-The Cowboys came back from the dead, winning four straight after a seven-game losing streak that nearly ended their NCAA Tournament chances in February. This is one of the most talented teams in the nation, with mercurial yet brilliant point guard Marcus Smart (17.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.7 apg) leading the way.
Smart, who will be a top pick in the NBA Draft come June, is capable of carrying the Cowboys deep into March on his own. But he’s got plenty of help in super-athletic guard Markel Brown (17.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg), forward Le’Bryan Nash (14.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and sharpshooter Phil Forte (13.3 ppg, 45% 3-pt FG).
Oklahoma State started off the season 15-2, and were ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation. They struggled in the rugged Big 12, and lost games because they turned the ball over and didn’t execute offensively. This is a tough defensive team as well, ranking 44th in the country in opponents’ field goal percentage.
15th Points per Game (80.3)
18th Points per Possession (1.12)
44th Field Goal Percentage Defense (40.7)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State