Not only does the matchup between the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs and 4-seed Florida State Seminoles look to be one of the best games of the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, it also features a great in-game player matchup between two dynamic duos that will meet at the Honda Center on Thursday night.
Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga and Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele of Florida State are the top scorers of each team, and they’ll be matched up against each other with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. How do they stack up statistically, and what should we expect out in Anaheim, California?
There is a big difference in these players because head coach Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles rely on a team strategy that doesn’t have a few top guys score, but relies on the entire squad that goes over ten players deep.
Kabengele and Mann, who have been nothing short of dominant during their first two games in the tournament, are the leading scorers for FSU, combining for 25 points and over 12 rebounds per game. Kabengele led the team at 13.4 points per game while only averaging 21.4 minutes during college basketball’s regular season.
In two games of March Madness action, Kabengele has played 52 minutes and posted games of 21 points, 10 rebounds and one block against Vermont, then followed that up with 22 points, seven rebounds and three blocks against Murray State. If he can stay on the court and gets a good amount of minutes, expect Kabengele to show scouts why he should be considered a serious prospect in the NBA Draft.
Mann hasn’t let fans down either, doing everything over the course of the first two games. Against the Catamounts in the first round, he had 19 points and eight rebounds and followed that up with 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists against the Racers.
This is a duo many people haven’t paid attention to throughout the season because their averages aren’t eye-popping. With the NCAA tournament down to 16 teams, they have demanded the attention of the country. If they want respect, though, they will have to earn it against two of the best post players in the country in Hachimura and Clarke.
These two don’t just bring it on the offensive end, but also on defense. Clarke finished with the regular season averaging the same number of blocks per game (3.1) as missed shots (3.0). If either Mann or Kabengele plan on scoring against him, it won’t come as easy as it was against the smaller teams from the opening rounds.
Along with his insane block numbers, Clarke also averaged 17 points and 8.4 rebounds on the season. He started the tournament with a solid game; 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists, a steal, and three blocks. But his second-round performance against Baylor was just insane.
On 15-of-18 shooting, he scored 36 points along with eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and five blocks. Video game numbers? Yes, basically.
Hachimura has been pretty good, too. On the season, he averaged a team-high 19.7 points with 6.6 rebounds. In the first round, he scored 21 points, but only had six points and five rebounds against Baylor. With Clarke absolutely dominating that game against the Bears, it’s no surprise he wasn’t able to get his own as well.
This is a game the Florida State basketball team will need its absolute best from everyone. This usually shouldn’t be the time to change what has helped you get to the point, but they need their top guys playing big minutes to help stop these Mark Few’s top-ranked Gonzaga team. Kabengele has been extremely good this season, but 21 minutes is just not enough. Yes, he can split time with Christ Koumadje, but the latter doesn’t present the same offensive threat as FSU’s leading-scorer does.
The Bulldogs are one of the best teams in the country and had National Championship expectations entering the tournament. The Seminoles have shown they aren’t just here for fun with their performance against Ja Morant and Murray State. The deciding factor on which of these teams advances to the Elite Eight will go through the post on Thursday night.