Xavier Musketeers vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Date and Time: Saturday, March 25, 2017, 6:09 p.m. ET
Location: SAP Center, San Jose, CA
College Basketball Odds: Gonzaga -8, 145.5
Xavier vs. Gonzaga TV Coverage: TBS
No. 11 seeds stood 1-12 straight up when matched up against No. 2 seeds in the Sweet 16. LSU scored that lone win when it beat Georgia Tech way back in 1986. The most recent No. 11 to reach the Sweet 16 and advance was Jim Larranaga’s George Mason Patriots, but they got there by defeating No. 7 seed Wichita State. Chris Mack’s kids cemented their names in history by coming back to break the hearts of the Wildcats on Thursday night, and it doesn’t look like they’re done just yet.
In beating Arizona, the X-Men became only the second team in NCAA Tournament history to win its first three games against top-6 seeds. Maryland was the first to feel the wrath, and then it was the overrated Florida State Seminoles. Arizona was the toughest matchup of the three by far, but Xavier’s experience allowed for them to stick close and seal the deal when it mattered most. Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and especially Malcolm Bernard - whose perfect 3 for 3 showing from downtown - helped spearhead the thrilling comeback.
It’s been far from pretty for the Bulldogs throughout the Big Dance. Regardless, the team has been able to survive and advance. It’s most impressive outing in this tournament came against South Dakota State in the first-round, and even that 66-46 win and non-cover wasn’t pretty. Nigel Williams-Goss and his mates then came out and looked like the team that destroyed all that got in its way throughout the regular season against Northwestern, but fizzled in the second half and may have only survived due to a terrible blown call that went against the Wildcats.
Even a return home to the state of California saw the Zags struggle, but it was more acceptable with West Virginia one of the better teams in the Big 12 this season. Still, the team shot less than 41 percent from the field for the second time in this tournament, lost the rebounding battle 38-34, and turned it over 16 times. While that’s forgivable against a team like “Press Virginia,” missing nine of 32 free throws is not. Xavier is going to come at them full bore, and if they’re not ready for that, they have no shot at advancing.
Matchup to Watch
The Musketeers have lost the rebounding battle in each of their last two games. That hasn’t mattered with them still able to come out on top where it matters most. However, Zona likely would have won the game had it not gone away from its bigs on the offensive end of the court in the late stages of the second half. I don’t think Lauri Markkanen took a single shot in the last five minutes. Regardless, him and Dusan Ristic had their way down low combining for 26 points and 12 rebounds. Sean O’Mara is really Xavier’s lone big man. He’s going to have to come up big and not allow Przemek Karnowski to dictate how things go in the paint. If he can stay out of foul trouble, continue clogging the lanes, and come up with crucial rebounds like he did against Zona, Xavier will have a tremendous shot at advancing.
Xavier vs. Gonzaga Free Picks
The Zags check in a perfect 3-0 straight up and 2-1 versus the odds at BookMaker.eu in these team’s last three meetings dating back to 2006. That means absolutely nothing heading into this matchup. What does hold water is Xavier’s 4-1 straight up and perfect 5-0 against the spread record when dogged by the linemakers this postseason. The lone defeat occurred in a 3 point loss to Creighton as 4 point dogs in the semis of the Big East tournament. Bulldogs coach Mark Few has won 24 NCAA Tournament games in his career. Unfortunately, none of them occurred in the Final Four and he’s going to have an extremely steep hill to climb in this one to put an end to that futility.
West Virginia shot less than 27 percent from the field against the Zags and was in the game till the bitter end. Xavier has averaged shooting 52.8 percent from the field in its three games played this tourney, and only allowed an average of 67.3 points per game. I just don’t see where the Zags find the offense to cover a number like this let alone win the game. I seriously don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this line! What I do know however is that Bill Murray is all aboard the X-Men train and he’s smoking hot right now. I’m riding that bandwagon just like I have all tournament and betting into the streak that Few once again fails to punch his ticket into the Final Four.
Xavier vs. Gonzaga ATS Pick: Bet Xavier at BookMaker.eu
Xavier vs. Gonzaga Score Prediction: Xavier 74 – Gonzaga 69