2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are headed back to the NCAA tournament for a second straight year under head coach Travis Ford where the team will try an avenge last season’s tournament loss in the first round. The Cowboys were one of the favorites in the 2013 tournament and came in as a No. 5 seed, but they fell in the opener to the No. 12 seed Oregon Ducks. Will the Cowboys atone for past mistakes this time around or suffer a similar fate to previous years?
In a season filled with uncertainty and controversy, Oklahoma State looks to put everything behind them as the Cowboys aim to make a magical run through this year’s tourney. After enduring a seven-game losing streak this season, Oklahoma State managed to turn things around in the latter part of the year as the Cowboys come into the tournament winners of five of their last seven. The Cowboys lack depth and team chemistry at times, but the team’s 21-12 overall record is not indicative of their overall talent or capabilities.
The No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs are set to face the No. 9 seeded Cowboys in the West Region of the bracket. The matchup features two teams with a similar style of play as both teams like to play up-tempo and rely on a balanced scoring attack. The game could come to down to each team’s ability to rebound and score in the paint as both have struggled this year in that department relying heavily on a perimeter game. The winner of this game will likely get to face the No. 1 seeded Arizona Wildcats in a game that will determine who earns a coveted Sweet 16 berth.
The Bulldogs of Gonzaga feature star forward Sam Dower who averages 15 points and seven rebounds per game this season. The Bulldogs also utilize a barrage of guards who are quick and elusive at the offensive end. Gonzaga returns to its underdog role this season as the Bulldogs look to upset the Cowboys and return to greatness again.
Oklahoma State is led by the most polarizing figure in college basketball who has made news on and off the court this season in Marcus Smart. Smart comes into the tournament averaging 17.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Along with the star presence of Smart, the Cowboys’ lineup features three players who average over 13 points a game in Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte.
Oklahoma State struggled midway through the season, leaving the Cowboys in a precarious position as a No. 9 seed, but now that the team has found itself, the sky is the limit for a Cowboys that was among the favorites to cut down the nets at the beginning of the season.
Greg Douglas is a College Basketball writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.