SALT LAKE CITY — The opening game for Saturday pits No. 6 seed Arizona against No. 14 seed Harvard at 4:10 p.m., followed by top-seeded Gonzaga against No. 9-seeded Wichita State in the nightcap, beginning at 6:40.
A defensive game plan that allowed the smaller Harvard bigs to defend one-on-one against the New Mexico towers and not leave anyone open on the perimeter powered the Crimson as they allowed the Lobos only three 3-pointers. Harvard, on the other hand, was 8-of-18 from the arch, including a 5-for-9 effort from Laurent Rivard, who finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
"It means the world to our team," Rivard said. "You know, last year we made it for the first time since 1946 to the NCAA tournament ... this year we wanted to come back and get a win, first time for school history. I mean (it) can't get bigger than that."
The Crimson will need a similar effort if they want to continue their tournament run when they face Arizona as the No. 6 Wildcats left little doubt it was the better team in manhandling 11th-seed Belmont. Lightning-quick Mark Lyons scored 23 points and Kevin Parrom, Kaleb Tarczewski and Nick Johnson all scored 12. That balance makes it tough to focus only on one player defensively.
After getting quite a scare from Southern University and eking out a 64-58 win, there is no time for No. 1 seed Gonzaga to rest. That is, if the Bulldogs want to get past a tough Wichita State team that really never had any doubt in upsetting the No. 8 seed Pittsburgh Panthers.
The ninth-seeded-Shockers were led by Malcolm Armstead and his 22 points, and Cleanthony Early scored 21 points. But as a whole, the team struggled with its shots. If Wichita State is going to pull off the upset, it most certainly is going to need to shoot better than the 2-for-20 performance it had from the 3-point line. But an upset could happen if the Shockers can keep up their 3-point defense against the Zags, as they held Pitt to a paltry 1-of-17 from behind the arch.
"We win by shooting 39 percent but hold them to 35 percent and outrebound them by five and hold them to six percent at the 3-point line speaks to the rebounding ability and the defensive intensity and passion."2 comments on this story
The Zags' Kelly Olynyk showed why he was the West Coast Conference Player of the Year as he led the Bulldogs with 21 points and 10 rebounds. The 7-footer was the focal point of the offense and consistently drew double teams, allowing guards Kevin Pangos (16 points and 4-of-9 on 3-pointers) and Gary Bell Jr. (11 points, 3-of-6 from three) to hit open shots. David Stockton looked like his dad at times as he led all players with seven assists.
No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 14 Harvard, 4:10 p.m.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Wichita State, 6:40 p.m.