NCAA Tournament Free Picks: Gonzaga vs. West Virginia Odds and Predictions
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 3/13/2012
At Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
No. 7 Gonzaga (25-6) vs. No. 10 West Virginia (19-13)
West Virginia -1
How They Got Here
Gonzaga got to the NCAA Tournament the same way they always do, by winning a few big nonconference games (Notre Dame and at Xavier) and finishing in the top two of the West Coast Conference. St. Mary’s won the regular season and postseason tournament, with the Zags finishing in second.
West Virginia took a more unconventional route, struggling mightily down the stretch in losing eight of 12, including a one-and down first round exit in the Big East Tournament. Despite that West Virginia received an at-large bid with an RPI of 57, the worst in the at-large field.
A program like Gonzaga has become synonymous with March just as seeing Bob Huggins roaming around the sideline in a wind breaker with a bottle of water and credential always at his side. Gonzaga steamrolled St. John’s last season, 86-71, in the first round of the tournament. But the Bulldogs were blasted by Jimmer Fredette and BYU 89-67 in the next round. Huggins took the Mountaineers to the Final Four two years ago. Kevin Jones and Daryl “Truck” Bryant both started on that team and Deniz Kilicli saw significant minutes. All will start on Thursday. Last season West Virginia was bounced in the second round by eventual Final Four participant Kentucky.
Gonzaga will cross the country to play in this game as a No. 7 seed while West Virginia will take a bus 75 miles north on Interstate 79 to play in front of a raucous and partisan pro-Mountaineer crowd. It is not the hand Gonzaga wanted dealt but it must deal with it. This game could be played in Seattle and there might be more Mountaineer fans. Put it in West Virginia’s backyard and you could be talking about a 90/10 split in terms of fans. West Virginia has already won a game in the city limits when it crushed Pitt earlier this season down the road in Oakland.
Gonzaga has won three consecutive first round games and have played a Big East team the last two seasons in the NCAA Tournament (beating St. Johns last season and losing by 22 to Syracuse in 2010). This will be the second consecutive year Gonzaga is a one-point underdog to a Big East team in the first round. They easily covered against No. 6 seeded St. Johns last year, winning by 15. Gonzaga and West Virginia have never met.
The game will feature WCC Newcomer of the Year Kevin Pangos (13.8 points per game), who is one of fourth players averaging double figures for Gonzaga. The best player on the court will wear Gold and Blue, Kevin Jones. The senior power forward became only the third player in Big East Conference history to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding in the same season (20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game). He was incredibly not named conference Player of the Year and he has been playing with a chip on his shoulder since.
NCAA Tournament Free Picks: Gonzaga vs. West Virginia Predictions
West Virginia’s guard play has been shaky at best and has cost them numerous games down the stretch and Gonzaga will have the edge there. The Bulldogs will likely to be dominated on the glass, especially offensive. Gonzaga is the better overall team. They are 4-1 on neutral courts this season but Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh will not be a neutral court. The edge goes to the Mountaineers in one of the most intriguing opening weekend games of the NCAA Tournament.
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