Weekend preview: Gonzaga can’t figure out San Francisco on the road
Who’s getting upset? No. 5 Gonzaga at San Francisco (Sat., 4:30 p.m. EST, ROOT):
History is suggesting this one.
Look at the past few years, and the Bulldogs have had an incredibly hard time traveling to War Memorial Gym. The last time they went there, they lost 66-65 last season. The time before that? A 96-91 loss in 2011. Before that? An 81-77 loss. In fact, the last time the Zags won at San Francisco was a 78-74 victory during the 2008-09 season. Not one player on the Dons roster has lost to Gonzaga at home. That’s kinda wild. In fact, this San Francisco team doesn’t have a senior on its roster.
This Gonzaga team, of course, is much better than the ones that visited before. Actually, it’s probably the best team since that one in 2008-09, they went to the Sweet Sixteen that season.
However, I’m a huge believer that mental obstacles exist and are just as tough to get over as physical ones.
UCLA transfer De’End Parker has done his thing since coming over, averaging 12.4 points per game. They’ll need big games from Cole Dickerson (14.6 ppg) and Cody Doolin (12.3 ppg). But the real task will fall on guys like Mark Tollefsen, who have to guard Kelly Olynyk in the paint.
The guard play could be somewhat even with Parker v. Pangos, but Gary Bell, Jr. against Cody Doolin is an interesting match-up to look out for.
Who else is on Upset Alert?
Oklahoma at No. 17 Oklahoma State (Sat., 1:30 p.m. EST, ESPN3): You never know what you’re going to expect in Bedlam. It’s a deeply-rooted rivalry with tons more on the line between the Cowboys and Sooners. I always feel like you can throw a lot of numbers out the window in a big rivalry game. Okie State is hanging in their for a spot in the Big Dance, the Sooners, after their big win over Kansas, are back in position to be on the bubble, which for a team with the recent trials that OU has had, is a great progress. A lot of that is owed the Lon Kruger. Romero Osby v. LeBryan Nash will be interesting, but who will guard Marcus Smart for Oklahoma? Figure that out, and do it, and the Sooners walk out of Gallagher-Iba Arena with a win. Though losing Buddy Hield will be a big problem for OU.
No. 25 Kentucky at Tennessee (Sat., 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS): This is a mental game for the Wildcats. All mental. Can they get past the fact that they’ve lost their best player and most influential court presence for the season in Nerlens Noel? Or will they fold. Kentucky was getting themselves back into the swing things after a conference swoon, then they never threatened at Florida, even before the Noel injury. Paging Willie Cauley-Stein. You have to guard Jarnell Stokes. Can you?
No. 24 Colorado State at Air Force (Sat., 4:00 p.m. EST, check listings): Psst, the Falcons are one of the better teams in the Mountain West Conference. The problem? NO ONE is talking about them at all. They’re 15-8, 6-4 in conference with wins over San Diego State, Wyoming and UNLV. Not sure what else they need to do to get into the conversation. Colorado State is coming off a draining victory over San Diego State. And Air Force is 6-0 at Clune Arena in-conference.
Follow David on Twitter at @David_Harten.