There were no upsets in this part of the West Region bracket as the two top seeds advanced past their challengers to schedule a matchup in San Jose. The Gonzaga Bulldogs will play the West Virginia Mountaineers on Thursday in what seems to be the toughest test for both programs.
Place: SAP Center at San Jose
Date/Time: Thursday March 23th, 2017. 7:40 PM ET
TV Coverage: TBS
#1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. #4 West Virginia Mountaineers
LINE: Gonzaga -3 (-104)
Total: 148.5 points (-105 over, -105 under)
Gonzaga advancing without playing their best basketball
Once again, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (34-1), a team who has lost a single game all season, failed to silence the doubters. As in the first round, they played well for one half only, building a 38-20 lead before the halftime. It was barely enough as Northwestern scored 53 points on the Bulldogs in the second, cutting the lead to 6 in the final minutes. Zags keep winning and advancing, but Coach Mark Few will dedicate some of the available preparation time to improve his players’ focus, as playing for only 20 minutes probably won’t cut it in the next rounds.
Nigel Williams-Goss had 20 points, eight rebounds and 4 assists to lead Gonzaga but wasted too many balls shooting just 6-19 with three turnovers. Zach Collins had another strong game off the bench with 16 points, 5 boards and 4 blocks, while starting center Przemek Karnowski hasn’t had much impact on the game for the second time in a row. But what hurt the Bulldogs the most was their poor free throw shooting. After shooting 8-of-18 against South Dakota State in the first round, they wasted 13 points going 23-of-36 against Northwestern. Their deep shooting isn’t there as well. In the Tournament, Gonzaga is just 12-of-46 (26 percent) from beyond the arc. For a comparison, the Bulldogs shoot 37.4 percent on threes for the season and 72.7% from the free throw line. Their season averages in points are impressive – 83.9 points for the Bulldogs, 61.1 points for their opponents on average.
Improved shooting helps West Virginia reach the Sweet 16
The West Virginia Mountaineers are back in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years and the fourth time since 2007 under Coach Huggins, but unlike their previous NCAA Tournament squads, this one can shoot. The Mountaineers jumped on Notre Dame right from the tip-off, scoring the first ten points of the game and have never trailed in 83-71 win. It was a nice, balanced effort by the Mountaineers. They forced 10 Fighting Irish turnovers in the first half with their famous press and exploited own opportunities on the offensive side. For the game, West Virginia had six open three attempts and knocked all six of them.
Five players scored in double digits, led by Jevon Carter’s 24 points. Daxter Miles Jr. had 18 points and Esa Ahmad chipped in with 11 points and 9 rebounds. They’ve knocked half of their field goal attempts and 21-of-26 freebies. They looked be in control for the entire game, responding to each Notre Dame attempt of a comeback. Despite the relatively high scoring game, this is unlikely to be a new standard for the West Virginia games. The Mountaineers scored much better than they usually do, with field goal percentage at 46%, 3pt percentage at 36.7% and 68.3% from the stripe. For the season, West Virginia scores 82.1 points per game and allows 66.8.
#1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. #4 West Virginia Mountaineers Game Trends & Prediction
The Gonzaga Bulldogs failed to cover in both games in Sacramento, bringing down their ATS success rate to 22-9-1 for the season. They went 16-16 against the over/under after splitting first and second round games.
West Virginia fared much worse against the spread despite covering against Notre Dame – they are 14-16-1 overall. They’ve only covered once in the nine games leading to the second round. Their last three games ended in overs, despite relatively high total lines. This brings them to 18-12-1 record against the over/under.
The line opened with Gonzaga a 3 point favorite in this match and some very early action slightly improved the betting odds on them. This shows that the Bulldogs are still undervalued by both the market and the public money and I’ll be glad to have them again. The previous two ATS losses won’t discourage me as I know that they haven’t played up to their standards. West Virginia did – and probably overachieved. The total points have opened at 146.5 and moved up a point as the punters are following the recent Mountaineers trend. I expect this to drop back when the limits are raised as I don’t expect this to be a high scoring game. Both team will have plenty of time to prepare their defenses for the opponents and will try to disrupt each other. Also, the last West Virginia game score was bloated due to some poor refereeing. Go with the under if the line gets to 148.
My Pick: Gonzaga -3
Total: (Under 148.5 points -105)
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