NCAA Tournament: Gonzaga showing no ill effects from close call against Southern
Thursday is a distant memory for Gonzaga.
The only thing the Bulldogs know is that they practice on Friday. They play an NCAA Tournament West Region third-round game against Wichita State on Saturday night. That's it.
If there is any residual affect from narrowly avoiding the first top-seeded loss to a No. 16 seed against Southern, it hasn't showed. These Bulldogs are as confident as ever. They have survived. And advanced.
"Our focus and expectation is on Wichita State and that's really it," point guard Kevin Pangos said. "Our focus is to win the next game. Everything else, we don't listen to. That's for everyone else to think about."
Clearly the experience of the West Coast Conference is helping Gonzaga right now. Not that the WCC is the best league in the land far from it. But these Bulldogs have played an entire season with a target squarely on their chests.
When they became the top-ranked team in the country late in the regular season, that pressure only intensified. Every team has given the Bulldogs its best shot including Southern, which used hot shooting, length and athleticism to claw its way within 64-58 of the Bulldogs on Thursday afternoon with an entire nation watching.
"I think people are losing sight of the fact that Southern is very good," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "That team is a lot better than anyone gave it credit for. We looked at the film, and Gonzaga played well. Southern was just fantastic. There was a time that I thought maybe we would be playing them. I expect Gonzaga to play very well against us."
If anything, the knock on the Bulldogs stems from them getting pushed around at times against the Jaguars. The Shockers are the most physical team remaining in the Salt Lake City pod, especially with New Mexico unexpectedly going down at the hands of Harvard on Thursday night.
But Gonzaga expects a better showing from Elias Harris, the power forward who scored just five points. Kelly Olynyk continues to be the best player in the West Region, and this is a battle-tested Bulldogs team that will take the floor on Saturday at EnergySolutions Arena.