Skip to main content

Originally published Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 7:42 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >


1:40 p.m. Friday in San Diego(TNT)

Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma State

The story line: A year after entering the tournament as a No. 1 seed, Gonzaga comes in this time as a No. 8, and a slight underdog to the Cowboys. Oklahoma State, widely seen as a team that could make a significant NCAA run, caught fire toward the end of the season after enduring a seven-game losing streak marked by the three-game suspension of guard Marcus Smart for shoving a fan.

Styles: The Cowboys like to play at a fast clip, averaging 80.3 points. Gonzaga is a hybrid offense, eager to push the pace but also capable of finding good shots in an attack with multiple sets. Defensively, both teams go predominantly man-to-man, but each has been known to turn to zone — Oklahoma State to counter foul trouble and depth problems, Gonzaga to offset athletically superior teams.

The perimeter: Both teams favor three-guard offenses. Oklahoma State is sparked by Smart, projected to be the No. 1 backcourt player taken in the 2014 NBA draft, but he gets major help from Markel Brown and Phil Forte. For the Zags, David Stockton is a deft passer at the point, taking pressure off scorer Kevin Pangos and versatile Gary Bell Jr. But Pangos has been limited by a persistent case of turf toe and isn’t the threat he was early in the season. Edge: Oklahoma State.

The big men: Oklahoma State’s longterm outlook was dimmed when forward Michael Cobbins went down late in December with a torn Achilles tendon, leaving the Cowboys short up front. Their big threat there is Le’Bryan Nash, a crafty, righty player with a good left hand. Gonzaga’s leading inside cog is Sam Dower Jr., a natural scorer who can drift outside and hit shots, but 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski can change games with improving moves around the hoop and his defensive presence. Edge: Gonzaga.

Coaching: The Cowboys’ Travis Ford isn’t considered an especially sharp bench coach; this OSU team is 4-10 in games decided by six points or less or in overtime. And he’s come up short three times in a row against Gonzaga’s Mark Few as Oklahoma State coach, and once before when he was at Massachusetts. Few has been very good in NCAA openers; it’s the later games where the Zags have faltered. Edge: Gonzaga.

When they’re struggling: The Cowboys went through a spell early in the season when Smart, an excellent passer, dominated the offense by shooting the ball, with mixed results. He needs to be a facilitator first. Gonzaga can struggle with athletes attacking off the dribble, and it’s had a history of surrendering big perimeter shooting games when bowing out of the tournament.

Bottom line

Even as conventional wisdom is projecting Oklahoma State to advance, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Gonzaga prevail. But Smart has functioned well since his suspension, and the Cowboys’ athleticism might be more than Gonzaga can handle.

Prediction: Oklahoma St. 73, Gonzaga 67

Bud Withers

Four weeks for 99 cents of unlimited digital access to The Seattle Times. Try it now!

Relive the magic

Relive the magic

Shop for unique souvenirs highlighting great sports moments in Seattle history.



The Seattle Times Historical Archives

Browse our newspaper page archives from 1900-1984

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►