All previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: West Coast
Date: Friday, March 28
Time: 7:15 pm Eastern
Location: Houston, TX
Gonzaga, back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 6 years, tries for their first Elite Eight since their Cinderella run back in 1999.
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #6 Strength: #44
Median play: #5 Median play: #29
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#8 Sagarin: #46
Pomeroy: #7 Pomeroy: #30
Offense: #4 Offense: #34
Defense: #35 Defense: #68
LRMC: #4* LRMC: #55*
BPI: #4 BPI: #41
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #8 2nd half/season: #22
Last 6 games: #8 Last 6 games: #23
Consistency: #145 Consistency: #177
Gonzaga outranks UCLA by every measure here, but the cross-compared offense and defensive efficiencies reveal a very equal matchup when UCLA has the ball. The key will be for the Bruins to find a way to stop the 'Zags offense.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (9): SMU+16, =Georgia+12, @St. John's+7, @UCLA+13, Texas Southern+40, @BYU+7, =BYU+16, North Dakota St.+10, =Iowa+19
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (1): @UCLA+13
- Losses to tournament teams (2): @Arizona-OT, BYU-3
- Other losses (0): none
Key Info: Gonzaga's very best performances were early on, when in addition to beating Sacrament State 104-58 and St. Joe's 94-42, they topped 6-seed SMU 72-56 and 10-seed Georgia 88-76. Even their loss to Arizona—in overtime, on the road—was a highlight. They continued to reach those heights occasionally again throughout the year but after topping UCLA 87-74 they only played one more NCAA-bound team. They beat BYU 87-80 on the road to kick off the WCC season, but lost at home to the Cougars 73-70. They won the rubber match in the tournament, 91-75. BYU didn't even make the field of 64, as it turns out. UCLA, however, made the Sweet Sixteen, the only team of that ilk the Bulldogs beat.
Gonzaga is one of the tallest teams in the country with a 6' 10", 7' 1", 6' 10" front line. They are led by transfer forward Kyle Wiltjer's 16.7 points; he adds 6 rebounds; he had 23 against the Bison and 24 against Iowa.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (6): Coastal Carolina+13, =UAB+12, Utah+10, Oregon+9, =SMU+1, =UAB+17
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (1): Utah+10
- Losses to tournament teams (8): =Oklahoma-10, =North Carolina-22, Gonzaga-13, =Kentucky-39, @Utah-32, @Oregon-18, @Arizona-10, =Arizona-6
- Other losses (5): @Alabama-6, @Colorado-6, @Oregon St.-11, @California-2, @Arizona St.-2
Key Info: UCLA looked dead in the water at 8-7 after losing to Utah 71-39. And that wasn't even their worst loss—that would be the 83-44 beatdown Kentucky put on them (halftime score: UK 41, UCLA 7). The Bruins battled back but kept getting bit by bad losses (Oregon State, California). In the last month or so, however, they seem to have put that behind them, losing only to underrated Arizona State once and Arizona twice, while winning 6 games, beating the teams they should beat, and upsetting Oregon to go with their earlier win over Utah.
Five Bruins average double figures, including Norman Powell (16.4) and coaches' son Bryce Alford (15.1). Alford was instrumental, to say the least, in the SMU win, hitting 9 of 11 three-pointers. He had 22 against UAB while forward Tony Parker led with 28.
Game Analysis: Gonzaga handled Iowa's height pretty easily, and now they face another tall team in UCLA. The Bruins have bit more heft, too, but they do most of their scoring from the outside. It could turn into a battle of the three-pointers if Bryce Alford is hitting like he did the last two games, where he is 12 of 16. The Bruins are 15 of 29 in the tournament, and Gonzaga is 17 of 38.
Like UCLA's last game (UAB) this is also a rematch from earlier in the season. Gonzaga won that first meeting 87-74 in Los Angeles, with both teams shooting 9 of 19 from the three-point line. This suggests that UCLA will need to have a big advantage in that department if they are to win; the 'Zags were 22 of 34 on 2s while UCLA was just 16 of 41. There's no question UCLA is better now than they were then, but have they improved enough to beat Gonzaga on a neutral court?
Gonzaga by 8 1/2
Power rating: spread
Gonzaga by 10.1
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
Gonzaga is a fairly hefty favorite to beat the Bruins; the game-comparison system gives them over a 3 in 4 chance. An 11-seed has defeated a 2-seed only 1 time in 12 attempts.
Bottom line: Gonzaga will blow UCLA out of the water if they play like they did vs. Iowa. But they probably won't play quite that well again, and based on their prior meeting when UCLA was very green, it won't be nearly that bad. We do think that the Bruins' run is over, as they can't defend Gonzaga both inside and outside. They'll have to try to win with offense, and since they've been hot with 3s lately it could end up pretty close.
Final prediction: Gonzaga 75, UCLA 71
More previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule.