Sweet 16: North Carolina-Gonzaga Preview, Analysis, and Prediction

Note: This post is from 2009. To view our 2010 March Madness coverage, use the following links:


This post will analyze the North Carolina-Gonzaga game using a statistical analysis provided by the Game Predictor at ESPN.com, which is powered by TeamRankings.com. For an analysis of how this program works, hop over to the first individual game Sweet 16 preview I put out for UConn-Purdue. The methodology is all explained there.

There were plenty of questions surrounding North Carolina coming into the 2009 NCAA Tournament and almost every single one of them revolved around one player: Ty Lawson. The ankle injurNorth Carolina-Gonzaga Preview, Prediction, Spread Pick - Ty Lawsony suffered by Lawson towards the end of the season left many people wondering just how effective he would be come tournament time and whether or not North Carolina could reach the Final Four without their floor general at full strength.

I think Lawson has proven that he’s just fine with his stellar performance against LSU.

After halftime, Ty Lawson scored 21 of his 23 points and led North Carolina to an 84-70 victory. The Tar Heels pulled away late against and LSU team that came ready to play, but just did not have the talent to match up with the mighty Tar Heels.

The question for Gonzaga heading into Friday night’s game is whether or not they have the talent to match up, especially against a North Carolina team that will now have an even healthier Lawson leading from the point.

Let’s look at the particulars as you prepare for a night of March Madness viewing on Friday, and then we’ll jump into the prediction.

North Carolina v Gonzaga Sweet 16 Preview and Prediction

Here is how UNC and Gonzaga stack up based on the same statistical categories we’ve used for each of the seven other Sweet 16 posts published this week:

  • Offensive Efficiency: North Carolina – 1.154 | Gonzaga – 1.125
  • Defensive Efficiency: North Carolina – 0.931 | Gonzaga – 0.888
  • Assist/TO Ratio: North Carolina – 1.401 | Gonzaga – 1.368
  • Free Throw %: North Carolina – 0.768 | Gonzaga – 0.715
  • Defensive Field Goal %: North Carolina – 0.411 | Gonzaga – 0.374

North Carolina-Gonzaga Sweet 16 Preview, Prediction, Spread Pick

Considering the seed differential and UNC’s strength of schedule advantage, it is no surprise that they are the heavy favorites as far as Game Predictor is concerned. Here is how the Game Predictor prediction stacked up:

  • Odds to Win Game: North Carolina – 77.4% | Gonzaga – 22.6%
  • Most Likely Final Score: North Carolina – 73.0 | Gonzaga – 65.9
  • Odds to Cover Spread (Gonzaga +8.5): North Carolina – 52.8% | Gonzaga – 47.2%
  • Confidence Level: 4 Stars

Gonzaga-North Carolina Spread Pick and Prediction

So Game Predictor is not quite as confident in North Carolina as it is in Louisville to beat Arizona, but still a pretty resounding vote of confidence for the Tar Heels. I agree, and would take UNC with the points in this one. This Tar Heels team is extremely talented, and while Gonzaga is a very good team, they are not a great team. I think with Lawson healthy, and the superb cast of players like Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington around him, this Carolina team is going to be very tough out for anyone, let along the Zags.

What I do like about Gonzaga is that they have great scoring balance. No player on their team averages more than Josh Heytvelt’s 14.9 points per game, but Matt Bouldin, Austin Daye, Jeremy Pargo, Micah Downs, and Steven Gray all average at least 9.2 And I am a big fan of Mark Few. No, he is clearly not on the level of Roy Williams, Mark Few - Gonzaga-North Carolina Preview, Prediction, Spread Pickbut he is a coach with plenty of experience getting an underdog hyped up and ready to play against a big favorite. Gonzaga has been in a unique position this season and over the past few years, no longer being the underdog just looking to pull an upset or two. Tournament success is now expected of them. I think Gonzaga will embrace the underdog role they are in Friday night and bring everything they’ve got.

But if both of these teams bring everything they’ve got, North Carolina is still ten points better, and I think that’s what we’ll see. Ty Lawson, as he proved against LSU, is a tremendous difference maker. As long as UNC does not fall into one of their games where they just refuse to play defense and get stops, they can put Gonzaga away in the second half. I actually think this game will look a lot like the LSU win.

A great season for Gonzaga falls short of the Elite 8, and the Tar Heels roll on, one step away from where everyone thought they’d be when the season started: the Final Four.

About the Author

Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.