Preview: No. 11 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 Syracuse

Previewing No. 11 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 Syracuse

Game 35: No. 11 Gonzaga (28-7, 15-3) vs. No. 10 Syracuse (21-13, 9-9)

All-time series: Syracuse leads 1-0

Date: Friday, March 25

Time: 9:40 p.m. ET

Location: United Center (Chicago, Illinois)


Gonzaga isn't your typical 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs won its conference tournament, the West Coast Conference, as well as a share of the regular season title with Saint Mary's. Kyle Wiltjer, a member of Kentucky's 2012 National Championship team, leads Gonzaga with 20.4 points per game. He transferred from Kentucky after the 2012 season, sat out the 2013-14 season and had two years of eligibility remaining in the beginning of the 2014-15 season. 

Wiltjer stands at 6-foot-10 and has the game to bust a zone. He's the Zag's best shooter, hitting over 40 percent from 3-point range, 86 percent from the charity stripe and 49 percent from the field. 

Gonzaga upset No. 6 Seton Hall and No. 3 Utah in its run to the Sweet 16. Domantas Sabonis, an elite big man, averages a double double: 17.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. The Orange has to keep Sabonis off the glass as much as possible, which will require the guards crashing the boards as well as productive outings from Tyler Roberson, Dajuan Coleman and Tyler Lydon.

Mark Few has led the Zags to 17-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He's 466-110 at Gonzaga, and 21-16 in the big dance.

Three things to watch:

1. Rebounding: Syracuse has held its own on the glass in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga will be its toughest test. The Bulldogs average 40 rebounds per game, which is good for 33rd in the country. Tyler Roberson will need to bring the same energy he brought in the first two rounds, while Coleman and Lydon will have to chip in. Gonzaga's guards crash the glass as good as anyone in the country, meaning Gbinije, Howard and Cooney will have to do the same. Malachi Richardson could be the X-factor on the glass. 

2. Offensive flow: Trevor Cooney has started to heat up the past two games, hitting six 3-pointers in 12 attempts. When Cooney is hitting shots, Syracuse becomes a legitimate threat to beat anyone in the country. Not only does it make Cooney a scoring threat every time he touches the ball, but it opens up opportunities for Gbinije, Lydon and Richardson, with Coleman and Roberson underneath to grab the rebounds. Malachi Richardson took over the Dayton game last week. Another shooting performance of that magnitude could be the final straw that pushes the Orange past the Zags.

3. Zone: Whenever SU's opponents see Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone for either the first time, or the first time in a long time, it gives them fits. Dayton and Middle Tennessee State both struggled against the zone, scoring 51 and 50 points, respectively. Gonzaga has played against zone defenses all season, but none with the ability of the Orange's. Coach Boeheim will throw different looks at the Bulldogs all night, including traps, going over or under ball screens, different pressure, etc.. Mark Few will have the Zags ready, but preparation only goes so far against Syracuse's lengthy zone. How well Syracuse plays in the zone could very well determine which team advances to the Elite 8.

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