Men's Basketball

First hurdle for Gonzaga in another title quest is one of the nation’s best defenses

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro

Region: West

When: 11:30 a.m. Thursday (TNT)

Vegas line: Gonzaga by 12 1/2

Why Gonzaga should win: The Bulldogs are deep, able to throw a half-dozen players equally capable of scoring on the court (all score 9.5-13.5 ppg), so they can counteract most defenses. They haven’t stepped off the gas against less-talented teams, going 26-1 against teams with an RPI of 51 or higher. UNCG is 65th.

Why UNC Greensboro could win: Their calling card this season has been defense (62.4 ppg, No. 6 in the nation), able to slow down most foes. The Zags like to speed it up, so if the Spartans can make them play at their pace, they have a shot. In Gonzaga’s losses, being forced into a lot of 3s has been a common theme.

[Previews: Ohio State vs. South Dakota State, Kentucky vs. Davidson, Arizona vs. Buffalo]

Notable: There is a definite international flair in this game, with players from Canada, Spain and the Netherlands on the UNCG roster, and from Japan, Denmark and France on Gonzaga’s. ... Multiple Japanese media outlets will be on hand to cover Gonzaga sophomore Rui Hachimura. ... UNCG coach Wes Miller was a walk-on at North Carolina from 2004 to 2007, and he wrote a book about it titled “The Road to Blue Heaven.” ... Gonzaga lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament every year from 2010 to 2014 but has won at least two games the last three. ... ESPN Giant Killer metric gives UNCG a 5.8 percent chance to win.

Quotable: “When Gonzaga came up on the screen you go: ‘OK, they’re not just good, they’re great. ... They played on the last day of the season last year. As we dove into the scouting report to break them down you start to see why. They are as consistent on both ends of the ball as any team in college basketball.” - Miller

Prediction: Gonzaga 70, UNCG 60