First glance: Gonzaga Bulldogs

Wes Mitchell,
Gamecock Central

South Carolina will face No. 1 seeded Gonzaga Saturday night at 6:09 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. What can the Gamecocks expect from the Bulldogs?


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Gonzaga Bulldogs (36-1, 17-1 WCC, RPI 8)

How they got here: South Carolina squares off with a Gonzaga team that nearly went undefeated during the regular season, only dropping a 79-71 contest to BYU.

The West Coast Conference champs opened the NCAA tournament with a 66-46 blowout of South Dakota State before edging out Northwestern and West Virginia in close games. The Bulldogs crushed 11-seed Xavier last weekend, 83-59, to advance to the Final Four.

This is the first trip to the Final Four for both Gonzaga and long-time head coach Mark Few who developed a program that's been a consistent participant in the NCAA tournament but hasn't quite been able to get over the hump.

Who to watch: At 7-foot-1, 300-pounds Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski is an absolute load for teams to deal with inside and he averages 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Where Karnoswki really makes his presence known is as the anchor in Gonzaga's impressive defense. He's also a talented passing big-man. As imposing as Karnowski is, it's junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who is the Bulldogs best offensive player. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder averages a team-best 16.7 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game.

How they play: Much like South Carolina, Gonzaga's team is built on defense as the Bulldogs feature KenPom's top defense in adjusted defensive efficiency (the Gamecocks are second). Gonzaga's size inside with the aforementioned Karnoswki and the 7-foot Zach Collins and 6-foot-9 Johnathan Williams make it difficult on teams.

On offense, the Bulldogs are as balanced as they come. Gonzaga has four players averaging double figures with a fifth who averages 9.9 points per game. Williams-Goss paces that offense, but Gonzaga is at its best when its also getting points from Josh Perkins and Jordan Mathews beyond the arc. That could be a key as South Carolina has locked down opponents' 3-point shooting throughout the season and NCAA tournament.

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