(7) Gonzaga vs. (10) West Virginia: East Region
Gonzaga 25-6, 13-3 WCC (At large)
West Virginia 19-13, 9-9 Big East (At large)
Time: 7:20 p.m. Thursday
Location: Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Winner will face: (2) Ohio State or (15) Loyola, Md., Saturday
Gonzaga No. 30 AP; No. 30 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
West Virginia 50
Line: West Virginia -1 (O/U 131½)
Players to Watch
Gonzaga: F Elias Harris, 6-7 Jr. (13.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 50.5% FG); C Robert Sacre, 7-0 Sr. (11.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg); G Kevin Pangos, 6-1 Fr. (13.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 40.5% 3s). Pangos had an outstanding freshman season for the Bulldogs, but he has struggled recently. He made just 3-of-18 shots in Gonzaga’s overtime loss to St. Mary’s in the WCC title game. Pangos has hit 74-of-185 3s this season, but he was just 1-of-10 against St. Mary’s after burning the Gaels for 27 points in their previous meeting.
West Virginia: F Kevin Jones, 6-8 Sr. (20.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 51.3% FG); G Darryl “Truck” Bryant, 6-2 Sr. (17.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.8 apg); C Deniz Kilicli, 6-9 Jr. (10.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 50.2% FG). Jones, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds in the Mountaineers’ 71-67 overtime loss to UConn in the conference tourney, led the Big East in scoring and rebounding and was named 1st-Team All-Big East.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Gonzaga: Gonzaga is really talented and long. Harris has the skill and Sacre the size to compete with any team in the country. Pangos, Gary Bell and David Stockton comprise a young, talented backcourt. The Bulldogs gets offensive contributions from eight different players, and they play solid defense. They get to the foul line with regularity and shoots 71.5 percent while there.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers are tough. Jones and Kilicli will battle anyone in the paint. Behind the duo, WVU has a plus-7.8 rebounding margin, it averages 15 offensive rebounds per game and it has one of the nation’s best rebounding percentages at 55.4. At times, it plays sound, stifling defense. Opponents shot just 45 percent from the field and 31.7 from the 3-point line during the season.
Why Makes Each Team Vulnerable
Gonzaga: Inconsistency has plagued the Bulldogs, as it has for several years now. They have inexplicable losses to Illinois, BYU and San Francisco. Shot selection is one reason why. With talented big like Harris and Sacre, the Bulldogs sometimes rely on the 3-point shot too much. Turnovers have been another issue. Gonzaga turns it over 13.4 times per game and has just a 1.03-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have pretty good athleticism but not a lot of skill. Outside of Jones and Bryant, there’s not a Mountaineer that gives opponents any semblance of fear. West Virginia shot just 44 percent from the floor – including 41.7 in Big East play – and only 30 from the 3-point line.
The Bottom Line: This is one pf the most interesting matchups of the first round. Gonzaga can be really good, but it rarely lives up to expectations. If Pangos, Bell and Stockton are hitting 3-point shots, the Bulldogs should win a close one. The best bet, however, is the over.
The Pick: Gonzaga 74, West Virginia 70
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-148-6 (Through Sunday, March 11)
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