Nearing tip on OSU’s NCAA Tournament matchup with Gonzaga, I’ve got lots of thoughts.
The first two days of the tournament continue to prove that the difference in all these teams is a delicate balance. And veterans are valuable. And a group of veterans is beyond valuable. Makes me reflect on the Cowboys’ weird season in a different light. The Big 12 was very good. And very balanced. And the smallest of factors can swing the outcome. Or several outcomes.
So, which Cowboys team will we get today? And how will they start? There seems to be a wide range of what to expect from this group. It’s a difficult team to get a grasp on. They’ve tended to start slowly in games of late, not that it’s been tragic. But in the Tournament, when stress levels are at their highest, rallying is taxing.
How is Markel Brown’s health? Both Brown and Phil Forte left Kansas City banged and bruised, with Brown’s sore calf the biggest concern. When I asked him yesterday how he was, he gave me the “so-so” waggle of his hand. The Cowboys need Brown at full go, because Gonzaga doesn’t seem to have anyone capable of holding him, unless they shift Gary Bell off of Marcus Smart to him, which then leaves no one to handle Smart. My guess on Brown? He’ll be good. He has a knack for being dramatic when it comes to injuries. But he also has a knack for stepping into the spotlight.
I could be proven wrong, but I don’t think this is a classic Gonzaga team. And the Zags didn’t play a great schedule. They lost to Portland and San Diego and BYU. You’ve got to think the Big 12 grind better prepared the Cowboys for this, right?
Gonzaga owns the edge inside, yet 6-9 Sam Dower Jr. is more finesse than force, and 7-1 Przemek Karnowski doesn’t dominate. Now, if Kamari Murphy and Le’Bryan Nash get in foul trouble, the Bulldogs get have a field day in the paint. It happened against Oregon a year ago. And you can bet that Gonzaga will attack the post early, trying to test the Cowboys in there. Still, the Bulldogs are built around their guards, much like the Cowboys. And OSU should own the edge there, especially if Kevin Pangos remains slowed from a turf toe.
There’s more pressure on the Cowboys. And Travis Ford. While they’re the No. 9 seed, they’re a popular pick to not only win their opener, but push Arizona in the next round. Marcus Smart and Markel Brown returned to school for this. And it’s time to prove why. Ford hasn’t done well in the NCAA Tournament. And after this uneven season, he needs a win. Gonzaga, even as the higher seed, came off as if they were flying under the radar in the matchup, which could allow the Bulldogs to play freer.
Pick: Cowboys 79, Zags 73