Western Kentucky vs.  Gonzaga
- 8:10 pm ET
South Region - Portland, ORAthletic Budgets (2008): WKU: $19,957,908 GONZ: $11,009,859
Gonzaga beat the MAC champions from Akron by 13 points, but it's a DVD that I plan on giving to anybody who thinks that scoring margin, adjusted or otherwise, matters for anything. There was a late Zag run, whoopee. We prefer the metric that measure average scoring margin within the game (used extensively in Basketball State's rating system) and that was Akron +2.6. The twin lessons from that game are that a.) Gonzaga doesn't look good against teams that play hard and scrappy, and b.) don't blink when you're playing this team because it has ass-torching capability when the court is open.
Western Kentucky has plenty of big bodies that they can throw at the Zags (like Jeremy Evans and D.J. Magley), and it's crucial that they create mass chaos down low. The Hilltoppers are also well-positioned to exploit Gonzaga's Achilles' heel, which just so happens to be shaped just like a heel! The arc is the place to get them -- Akron hit 10 3's, if you'll recall. This will give Orlando Mendez-Valdez, a man who had little input into the 2008 Sweet 16 run (11 points in three games, a total he matched against Illinois on Thursday a chance to become a national name (yes, a very long and hyphenated one too). The Sun Belt POY has hit 94 3's in 230 attempts for 40.9 percent. And do not give up an extended run to this hot-shooting team -- if Akron hadn't yielded that 13-0 late spurt, this would be a Zip-Top affair instead of a Zag-Top one.