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Matchup Analysis - No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 West Virginia

NCAAB Online

For lack of better terms, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have been methodical in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. They've had bad moments for sure, and opponents have made some nice runs at them, but just as they have all season long, they've found ways to persevere and are now four games away from their first ever National Championship.

The West Virginia Mountaineers though, would love to be in the way of that and pose a real threat, and with the way they play defense, this is a matchup that feels ripe for an upset.

Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
Date and Time
: Thursday, March 23, 2017, 7:39 p.m. ET
Location: SAP Center, San Jose, CA
Sweet 16 Odds at BookMaker.eu: Gonzaga -3, O/U 146.5
Gonzaga vs. West Virginia TV Coverage: TBS

When Gonzaga Has the Ball…

West Virginia hasn't been anywhere near its average in forced turnovers per game here in the NCAA Tournament, but it's hard to say that this defense has done much wrong. Bucknell and Notre Dame combined to turn the ball over 27 times, and what really was the showcase in both games was the strings of turnovers that caused big runs.

Bucknell was effectively out of the equation before too long in the opening round thanks to a 19-3 run that included four turnovers in the first half. Notre Dame turned the ball over on three of its first five possessions and was down 10-0 before the first media timeout and never got closer than three.

Gonzaga's guards are borderline elite with Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Matthews. They're going to be the far bigger team on the court, and they'll have to take advantage of that to break this press. If the Mountaineers can't setup because the ball is staying largely above the heads of the tall trees, that will cause them to back off.

The Zags are turning the ball over just 11.2 times per game this season, and that's a healthy number to shoot at in this one. There will be mistakes for sure, but limiting said mistakes is the key to staving off an upset bid.

When West Virginia Has the Ball…

It shouldn't be forgotten that Gonzaga has eight men with at least 15 steals on the season as well. The Bulldogs don't quite use the same full-court pressure for the full 40 minutes as West Virginia, but they can turn up the heat when they have to.

The key for the Mountaineers has been getting to the foul line. They've done so 26 and 29 times in their two games, and they've scored 21 points at the line in both affairs. That makes life a lot easier for a team that picks up a lot of transition buckets and struggles at times in half court sets.

Jevon Carter has 35 points in the two games in the NCAAs to date, including hitting a team-high six threes. You know that you're going to have to work to defend against him and his quick shot, and there are going to be times that he just flat out beats the Zags. But again, the goal is containment. Keeping the Mountaineers in the 70s should be considered the goal for a very good offensive team that should be able to win a game played in the 150s.

The X Factor

Our real question in this game is whether the Bulldogs can afford to stay big. Mark Few would love to have two of the three of Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins and Johnathan Williams on the court at the same time, but the fact of the matter is that a team that really relies on speeding you up and making you uncomfortable might force a couple more ball handlers on the floor.

If the latter is true, that could mean big minutes for Silas Melson. The junior hasn't played a lot here in the NCAA Tournament, but he's a respectable shooter, a three-point threat, and most importantly, is a guard who only has 27 turnovers in 35 games. Keep an eye on Melson in this one, as even if he isn't scoring, he could end up being a real key cog for the Bulldogs.