The first game is often the most difficult, but the 6-seed TCU Horned Frogs (22-12, 16-17-1 ATS) and 3-seed Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-5, 13-19-1 ATS) both made it through. These West Region teams will need another win in Denver if they want to take a business trip to Vegas for the Sweet 16. At 9:40 p.m. EST in Ball Arena, TCU and Gonzaga will tip off as the final first-weekend game.
TCU: Survival of the FittestIt was tight, and they trailed most of the game, but TCU escaped Ball Arena with a win on Friday night. Usually reserved for football, Pac-12 after dark was in full effect at the end of the Horned Frogs' 72-70 win against Arizona State. After a TCU comeback and a lot of back-and-forth action, JaKobe Coles got a bucket with three seconds left. The Sun Devils couldn't get a prayer off in time, and TCU survived the night.
WE'VE GOT A GAME! 🍿#MarchMadness | @TCUBasketball pic.twitter.com/5s47aRTpO2— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 18, 2023
For nearly eight minutes in the second half, TCU limited Arizona State to two points. TCU's defense rates 23rd in adjusted efficiency according to KenPom, so that's familiar territory. The Sun Devils were hot from deep on Friday night, but TCU is typically great at limiting triples. Their opponents have only hit 30.8% of their three-point attempts against them this season.
Offensively, the Horned Frogs are also quality, ranking 50th in adjusted efficiency. Three-point shooting and converting free throws were areas that plagued TCU this season, but they did both well on Friday night. If they stay hot all tournament, watch out.
Overall, TCU is 25th in KenPom's ratings.
Bulldogs Big Streak at Perfect TimeIt was close for a while, but Gonzaga took complete control of the second half and beat Grand Canyon 82-70. The final score is closer than the game was. With 16:09 remaining, Gonzaga was ahead 50-42. With 9:54 left, the Bulldogs were leading 64-42. Gonzaga finished +14 in rebounding and shot 53.6% as a team. Julian Strawther was on fire, with a 28-point night.
Drewski 🔥🔥https://t.co/WBVHaN0F6m— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) March 18, 2023
Gonzaga moved up to seventh in KenPom's ratings after the win. Their offense didn't move one bit though, keeping its spot at first in adjusted efficiency. The WCC champions do everything right offensively, protecting the ball and shooting at a high clip.
Their defense is 75th per KenPom's adjusted efficiency ratings. The Bulldogs are skilled at creating turnovers and grabbing rebounds. They also have a very capable shot blocker in their all-time leading scorer, Drew Timme.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
TCU's offense was not their strength this season and had a few lulls on Friday, but overall their performance was impressive considering Arizona State's defense wreaked havoc on a lot of teams this season. That the Horned Frogs hit open threes and free throws could make them very dangerous going forward. Of course, Gonzaga's offense on Grand Canyon, but Grand Canyon's defense was barely 200th in adjusted efficiency this season. TCU's is much tougher at 23rd. Gonzaga's defense isn't great, and Timme's size could pose problems inside for TCU's offense, but I think if they play like Friday the Horned Frogs will take this game. Taking the points is safer though, so I'm going to roll with the spread.
BetMGM wants to make your first tournament bet easy! Get up to $1,000 back in Bonus Bets if you don't win. What are you waiting for? Passing this up would be Madness! *Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (CO, DC, IL, IN, LA, MD, MS, NJ, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY) Call 877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY (467369) (NY). 21+ to wager. Please Gamble Responsibly. Call 1-800-NEXT-STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (KS, NV), 1-800-327-5050 (MA), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA), 1-800-270-7117 for confidential help (MI). Visit BetMGM.com for Terms & Conditions. US promotional offers not available in Nevada, New York or Ontario. Click here to begin your Tournament!
Full-Game Total Pick
When looking at the total, the first thing that stands out is the adjusted tempo for both teams. KenPom has Gonzaga 44th in adjusted tempo and TCU 54th, so this game should be fast. There's also Gonzaga's tendency for higher-scoring games, as the over is 19-14-0 in their contests this season. That shouldn't be a surprise, as their offense is the highest-scoring in the nation, while their defense isn't a powerhouse. TCU's defense is strong, but not impenetrable. Their offense also seems to be ready for the moment based on Friday. Take the over.