Friday’s second round matchup of the NCAA Tournament will feature the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Gonzaga Bulldogs in what should be a close battle. The opening tournament game for these teams will take place on Friday afternoon at 4:40 pm ET in San Diego, California. Whichever team wins will play the winner of #1 Arizona versus #16 Weber State.
Oklahoma State – The 9th seeded Cowboys enter the NCAA Tournament with a season record of 21-12 (8-10 in the Big 12). After a great start of the season that saw the Cowboys go 15-2, they struggled in the second half of the season against their Big 12 opponents. Oklahoma State, however, has been playing much better as of late, with their only two losses in their past seven games coming in overtime. The Cowboys can be a very explosive offensive team when everything is clicking – they rank 16th in the nation in points per game – but they are susceptible to allowing a high average of points per game by their opponents.
Gonzaga – In being the 8th seed in the West Region, the Bulldogs went 28-6 (15-3 in the WCC). Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference championship, which earned them a spot in the second round of NCAA Tournament against Oklahoma State. Despite having a relatively easy schedule, Gonzaga still had an overall impressive season. Throughout the season the Bulldogs dominated the WCC by going 15-3, but they lost their only game against a ranked opponent when they lost to #24 Memphis. Currently, Gonzaga ended their season on a five-game winning streak. The Bulldogs were one of the best shooting teams in the NCAA this year, and they have a balanced team with a solid offense and defense on both sides of the court.
Oklahoma State – The two key players for the Oklahoma State Cowboys are their top two scorers, Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. Smart, who leads the team in scoring by averaging 17.8 points per game and assists, has arguably been the team MVP. The sophomore guard has shown that he can step up in big games this season. Against #11 Memphis in the early part of the season, Smart had his best game of the season by dropping 39 points in a big win for the Cowboys. Brown has also been a significant contributor to the team, and he averaged 17.1 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds per game.
Gonzaga – Sam Dower is the key player for the Bulldogs if they are to win this game. The senior forward led Gonzaga in scoring by averaging 15 points per game, and he also led his team in rebounds by averaging 7.1 a game. He helps the Bulldogs in the paint by being a large offensive threat, given his helpful 6-9 frame. Dower showed his offensive prowess against Loyola Mary in which he had 28 points and 14 rebounds in the win. Gonzaga will need Dower to be at his best to advance to the third round in the NCAA Tournament.
Keys to Winning
Oklahoma State – The Cowboy’s high-scoring offensive attack will need to be clicking on all cylinders if they are to defeat Gonzaga. But the most important key to winning this NCAA Tournament game will lie in how well Oklahoma State plays defense against the challenging Bulldog’s offense. Stopping Gonzaga’s star forward, Sam Dower, is the primary key to slowing down their offense.
Gonzaga – Dower and Pangos will need to take charge on the court with their imposing offensive skills, because Gonzaga will need to keep up with Oklahoma State’s explosive offense. Defense will be key if the Bulldogs are to win, and stopping one or both the Cowboy’s two stars, Smart and Brown, is crucial for them to advance to the third round.
This matchup looks to be one of the more entertaining matchups in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, because Oklahoma State and Gonzaga are two high-scoring teams that should duke it out until the very end. Oklahoma State is currently playing more like they did in the early and successful part of their season, and they will defeat the Bulldogs on Friday. Oklahoma State will win the game 75-73.
Commentary by Glen Parris