#4 West Virginia Mountaineers (28-8; 14-16-1 ATS; 18-12 O/U) vs. #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (34-1; 22-9-1 ATS; 16-16 O/U)
NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 7:39pm EST
Line: Gonzaga -3
The Gonzaga Bulldogs will meet with the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night from the SAP Center in San Jose. West Virginia defeated Bucknell followed by a win over Notre Dame to reach the Sweet 16, and Gonzaga beat South Dakota State along with a win over Northwestern to pave their path to the Sweet 16.
Mountaineers Defense Dazzles in Win Over Notre Dame
The West Virginia Mountaineers did not look impressive in their First Round win however they came away with a convincing 83-71 win over Notre Dame in the Second Round. The Mountaineers played their press defense, holding the Fighting Irish to 40% shooting and converted on 50% of their shots. Jevon Carter was spectacular, going 8 for 15 from the field for a total of 24 points. The junior guard struggled in the First Round over Bucknell but redeemed himself against Notre Dame, and is now averaging a team-leading 13.3 points per game. Esa Ahmad added 11 points along with nine rebounds in the Second Round win. The 6-foot-8 sophomore forward scored 15 points in the win over Bucknell, and is now averaging 11.3 points per game. The Mountaineers have looked great offensively in both their Tournament wins and played tremendous defense in the win over Notre Dame. The Mountaineers cannot afford a defensive performance that was seen in the First Round against a Gonzaga team that features both an elite offense and defense. They are currently ranked sixth overall in Ken Pomeroy’s College Basketball Rankings.
West Virginia is very strong offensively, averaging 82.1 points per game, ranking them 18th overall, and are shooting 45.9% from the field. The Mountaineers play stifling defense, allowing an average of 66.8. points per game, placing them 51st overall.
Gonzaga Overcomes Shaky Second Half in 2nd Round Win
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were outscored 53-41 in the second half but still escaped with a 79-73 win over Northwestern in the Second Round this past weekend. The Bulldogs were up 58-42 and Northwestern cut the lead to five before Gonzaga benefitted from a missed goaltending call which resulted in a technical foul on the Wildcats. Gonzaga still held Northwestern to 40% shooting, and hit 44% of their shots. Nigel Williams-Goss led the offensive charge with 20 points but only went 6 for 9 from the field. The junior guard at least 20 points in four out of his last five games, and is now averaging a team-leading 16.7 points per game. Jordan Mathews went 5 for 12 from the field for a solid 14 points. The 6-foot-4 senior has played well in the two Tournament wins, scoring 16 points in the First Round win and is now averaging 10.7 points per game. The Bulldogs did not play good defense in the second half against Northwestern which is a bit of a concern going against a Mountaineers team that is stronger offensively than the Wildcats. Gonzaga is currently ranked number one in Ken Pomeroy’s College Basketball Rankings.
Gonzaga features an elite offense, averaging 83.9 points per game, good for 14th in the country, and are shooting a remarkable 51.2% as a team. The Bulldogs also play tremendous defense, allowing an average of 61.1 points per game, positioning them sixth in the Country.
The West Virginia Mountaineers are:
- 1-9-1 ATS in their last 11 neutral site games as an underdog.
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games against the West Coast Conference.
- 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up win.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are:
- 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games following an ATS loss.
- 15-5-1 ATS in their last 21 games against a team with a winning percentage above .600.
- 19-6-2 ATS in their last 27 games as a favorite between 0 and 6.5 points.
- 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games against the Big 12.
I am taking Gonzaga in this contest. I can’t trust West Virginia after allowing 80 points to Bucknell in the First Round and 80 points to Iowa State in their loss in the Big 12 Tournament. I know West Virginia plays their press defense however Gonzaga is the real deal, featuring five players averaging double-digits in points and they are shooting an astounding 51% so I think they will crack the Mountaineers defense. West Virginia doesn’t defend the three particularly well, and the Bulldogs are a strong three-point shooting team. Furthermore, West Virginia is shooting a weak 68% from the free-throw line, and free-throw shooting can make a world of difference in games of this magnitude. Gonzaga is also the stronger rebounding team and I think this team is stronger on both sides of the ball, so I will gladly take them with this small spread.
Pick: Gonzaga Bulldogs -3
Both teams play strong offense however these are two stifling defensive teams colliding, and good defense trumps good offense. The Mountaineers press defense will be something Gonzaga has yet to see, so I can’t see them scoring huge points, and the under is 8-3-1 in the Mountaineers last 12 games as an underdog. The Bulldogs are holding opponents to 37% shooting so I am very confident in their defense, plus the under is 4-1 in their last 5 games following an ATS loss.