The Gonzaga Bulldogs (32-4) are about as close as you can get to being a blue blood from a non-power conference. They have 20-straight tourney appearances. The have great facilities and travel the nation in out-of-conference play. They’re stocked with a combination of blue chip recruits and European players who otherwise would be pro’s right now.
About the only knocks have been that they compete in a conference of mostly tiny religious schools with rosters of 2* recruits, and that once they make the tourney, they don’t advance. Then, in the past three years, they made the national title game, and another Elite 8, and that latter complaint has disappeared for the time being.
They’re a legit program, and they stand between Florida State and the ‘Noles third Elite 8 appearance in program history.
Earlier this week, we got some intel from the Gonzaga blog, the Slipper Still Fits. We took a look at the Zags diverse suite of post players, and we took some time to answer a few questions about Florida State.
Now it’s gameday.
Gonzaga is a well-balanced team, with a top-15 offense and defense.
On offense, they can attack fast or slow. It hardly matters. They’ll take quick hitters when they’re available, but are also comfortable backing it out and running sets. They take slightly more 3s than average teams (40% of their shots, compared to 38% for the rest of college basketball), and shoot them at a 37% clip.
Their real strength is scoring inside. They’re 4th nationally in 2-pt% and they do it in a variety of ways. The can score on the break. They have guards who can beat you off the dribble. They skilled bigs who can play both inside-out, and outside-in. And they’re always looking for the back cut.
They’re also a very good offensive rebounding team. North Carolina and Duke are the only two teams that FSU has played that have more efficient offenses.
Unfortunately for Florida State, the Zags defense is elite as well, coming in 14th nationally. They don’t pressure much, but they do an exceptional job collapsing and taking away the paint, and they’re one of the best rebounding teams in the country.
They also excel at limiting transition opportunities.
How does FSU pull the upset?
Probably the same way that Gonzaga lost their four previous games. In those games, the Zags shot 27%, 27%, 31%, and 32% from deep. And their opponent shot 30%, 47%, 48%, and 60%.
In other words, win the 3-pt lottery.
San Diego State is the outlier in the those opponent 3-pt%s. They beat Gonzaga by making 10 more free throws. Which is a model FSU can hope to emulate. Gonzaga is not good at getting to line, and Florida State has been improving all year. The ‘Noles are solid nationally, but not great (77th), though once ACC play began the Seminoles led the conference in free throw rate. In two tourney games, the ‘Noles have gone to the line 53 times.
So basically, it will be the same gameplan that FSU has used to advance to this point. A hectic, swarming defense, looking to turn defense into transition offense. A relentless downhill attack. And a little luck from the 3-pt gods.
The game is set to tip at 10:07 PM from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and will be broadcast on TBS. Gonzaga is a 5 1⁄2 point favorite.