Like it is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Looking past Hogs could lead Zags bedeviled

The Zags are really the Bulldogs, but who really cares.

Gonzaga has become a blue blood of college basketball.

The Zags have been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 1999 and to the Sweet 16 12 times, Elite Eight five times and the Final Four twice, both times ending up second best.

About 2005, their fans started wearing T-shirts with the message: "Don't Call us Cinderella."

That was a fair request.

Last season, like this season, Gonzaga was favored to win the national championship.

They were 31-0 going into the championship game with Baylor and came out 31-1, as they didn't have the physicality or athleticism to match up with the Bears who walked away with an 86-70 win.

Now they are 28-3, once again favored to win it all, and will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks at 6 p.m. today on CBS.

Its the No. 1 game of the night.

The Zags average 87.8 points per game and have an average winning margin of 21.8 points.

Most of that is in the West Coast Conference which they dominate every year.

Obviously they are good. Against teams in the Sweet 16 they beat UCLA 83-63 and Texas Tech 69-55, and lost to Duke 84-81.

Only the Razorbacks stand between them and a rematch with the Blue Devils or Red Raiders.

The Zags are so long they are a match-up problem for everyone. Their starting line-up goes 7-foot, 6-10, 6-7, 6-5 and 6-3.

Because freshman Chet Holmgren weighs only 195 pounds on his 7-foot frame a lot of Razorback fans are thinking this might be a situation where Connor Vanover sees some valuable time for the Hogs.

Vanover is 7-3 and 215 pounds but has played in only 15 games this season.

On paper, it looks like it would be a good one-on-one match-up. Vanover can shoot and block shots, but Holmgren has blocked 115 shots and changed countless others. He also averages 14.2 points per game and 9.8 rebounds.

He may, be thin but he doesn't play like it.

The Zags, like the Razorbacks, don't have a lot of depth, primarily using seven players.

It would be easy to write, or say, for the Hogs to win that JD Notae needs to square up and make his shots and the Razorbacks have to play their lockdown defense.

Defense is probably the key for the Hogs to survive and advance.

Gonzaga has 355 turnovers this season, almost 11 1/2 per game, but at the same time the Razorbacks need to value the ball on every possession. They have 455 turnovers this season an average of 13 per game.

In a lot of ways, this game is like the days when Nolan Richardson was striking fear into the hearts of opponents and fatigue was making cowards of them.

The Zags will most likely want this to be a half-court game, although, if you don't get back on defense quickly they won't hesitate to burn you.

Arkansas wants up-tempo. In the last few games with opponents trying to deny Notae the ball, pushing him further from the three-point line and doubling up on him when he attacks the basket, the Hogs haven't been as effective on offense.

It won't come down to coaching. Eric Musselman and Mark Few know the game and both have spent five days preparing mentally and physically for this game.

It will come down to performance.

The team that executes the best usually wins, but one difference is that the Zags might be looking ahead to that game with Duke or Texas Tech.

Arkansas will be totally focused on the Zags tonight.

In the last three years, the Razorbacks have returned to the status of being a top-shelf team and they are taking on the same in a game of win or go home.

Upcoming Events