There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the East Region’s 7-10 matchup between eternal Tournament darlings Gonzaga and the rugged Mountaineers of West Virginia.
Gonzaga-West Virginia Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia in East Region
- Cincinnati-Texas Date: Thursday, 3/15
- Cincinnati-Texas Tip Time: 7:20 ET
- Cincinnati-Texas Location: Pittsburgh
- Cincinnati-Texas TV: TNT
- Cincinnati-Texas Announcers: Kevin Harlan and Len Elmore
- Cincinnati-Texas Point Spread: Pick ’em
- Tickets: Gonzaga-West Virginia Tickets
- Tickets: All Pittsburgh Sessions
- Tickets: East Regional Tickets in Boston
Gonzaga-West Virginia Analysis and Prediction
One of the nuances of the pod system is that sometimes the lower seeded team winds up playing close to home, which is exactly the case here with West Virginia playing in Pittsburgh. That should certainly give them at least a small advantage in what should already be a close game.
The keys for the Zags will be finding a way to contain double-double machine Kevin Jones and keeping the Mountaineers off the offensive glass. West Virginia currently ranks fourth in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing over 40 percent of their own misses, but the Bulldogs are 40th in defensive rebounding percentage, which should make for some serious battles on the glass.
For Gonzaga, they need to exploit West Virginia’s lack of depth inside by going right at forward Deniz Kilicli with guys like Robert Sacre and Sam Dower. The Mountaineers allow opponents to over 50 percent from two-point range, while the Zags make 52 percent of their twos. I think that ends up being the difference in the game.
Predicted Winner: Gonzaga
Gonzaga Bulldogs Team Capsule
- Conference: West Coast
- Record: 25-6 (13-3 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 5-4
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: BYU (2), Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Xavier
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: BYU, Michigan State, Saint Mary’s (2)
- Player to Watch: Kevin Pangos (6’1” G, Fr.) – 13.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.2 spg, 40.5 3P%
Gonzaga Bottoms Line:
The Zags were once a Cinderella story, but they have since become a perennial tournament team.
Four players score in double figures, led by freshman Kevin Pangos, who has a sweet stroke from beyond the arc and has proven to be an able passer as well. Gonzaga boasts a number of talented frontcourt options as well with Elias Harris (13.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 50.5 FG%), Robert Sacre (11.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 50.5 FG%), and Sam Dower (8.5 ppg, 3.7 mpg, 54.6 FG%) all contributing from game-to-game. All three are consistent contributors on the glass, and Sacre has an absurdly good 89.4 free throw rate.
The Bulldogs can shoot it well both inside and outside the arc, and they rank fifth nationally in free throw rate. They are solid on defense as well, and they do a particularly nice job of limiting offensive rebounds against them and not putting their opponents on the line.
West Virginia Mountaineers Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 19-13 (9-9 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 4-6
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-8
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Kansas State, South Florida
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor, Connecticut (2), Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame (2), Syracuse
- Player to Watch: Kevin Jones (6’8” F, Sr.) – 20.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 51.3 FG%
West Virginia Bottoms Line:
The Mountaineers returned just three players from last year’s team, but those three players were the team’s three leading scorers.
Kevin Jones led the way with 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, as he bounced back from a disappointing junior season to establish himself as one of the top players in the Big East. He logged over 93 percent of WVU’s minutes and posted strong rebounding rates on both ends.
Truck Bryant averages 17.2 points, but his shooting percentages leave a bit to be desired. Inside, Deniz Kilicli shot just over 50 percent from the field and averaged 10.7 points and 5.4 rebounds, while both he and Bryant have posted strong free throw rates. Outside of that trio, freshmen Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne have been the most consistent players, with Hinds having a slightly higher assist rate but Browne more adept at getting to the line.
Overall, the Mountaineers ranked 35th in offensive efficiency, and a high offensive rebounding rate is by far their best attribute there. On defense, they do a nice job of keeping their opponents off the line, but they allow them to shoot better than 50 percent on two-pointers, which means they could be vulnerable to teams who pound the ball inside.
Related: Jump to our East Region Bracket Breakdown
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama