Gonzaga can move one step closer to an undefeated season by taking down UCLA in the Final Four.
The big storyline of the college basketball season is whether or not the Gonzaga Bulldogs can become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated. The Bulldogs are 30-0 and can move one step closer to that goal by topping the UCLA Bruins tonight in the Final Four.
There has been little resistance for Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament, which has beaten all four of its opponents by at least 16 points. The latest victim for the Bulldogs was USC, which got run out of the gym early in an 85-66 beatdown.
Drew Timme led the way for Gonzaga with 23 points as the Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the floor for the game. Gonzaga has scored at least 83 points in each of its four NCAA Tournament games, totals that could easily be higher if the Bulldogs didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal with the games well in hand.
The next challenger for Gonzaga is another Pac-12 foe in UCLA, which is coming into this matchup as the authors of one of the most unlikely Final Four runs in NCAA Tournament history. The Bruins, who barely got into the field and trailed Michigan State until the final minute of their First Four matchup, became just the second team to ever go from the First Four to the Final Four, joining the 2011 VCU Rams in that historic category.
Mick Cronin’s team has used tempo to its advantage, slowing down the game and limiting possessions against more talented opponents, a strategy that has helped UCLA upset Alabama and Michigan to get to this point. Tuesday night’s ugly 51-49 win over the Wolverines wasn’t a masterpiece as the Bruins shot only 38.9 percent from the floor and got zero bench points, but style points don’t matter when the name of the game is to survive and advance.
Johnny Juzang carried UCLA’s offense in that game, scoring 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, and is averaging 21.6 points per game during the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have a ton of trouble scoring when Juzang isn’t heavily involved so look for Gonzaga to try and take him out of the equation early.
The key to this game will be whether UCLA can successfully slow the game down enough to give themselves a chance to pull the upset late in the second half. The Bulldogs have shown they don’t need much time to go on big scoring runs so there is little margin for error here for UCLA.
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