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West Virginia



Sweet 16



There are no qualms about having either one of these teams in the Sweet 16 as both looked the better team in their first two games. West Virginia took down Bucknell and then Notre Dame with the Irish never really being close in the second-round game, while Gonzaga beat San Diego State and Northwestern, with the Wildcats making a late comeback that wasn't enough. As the 1-seed, Gonzaga opened as -3 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the game in San Jose.

The main thing when looking at any West Virginia game is whether its opponent can deal with the press or not. Notre Dame was the best in the nation at not turning it over, yet that failed to show up in the second round. With almost a full week to prepare for the Mountaineers, Gonzaga will try and master the full-court press. The Bulldogs have the 26th-best turnover rate in the nation, but it's important to note that some of that has to do with playing in the WCC. In non-conference they didn't really play a team like WVU that pressed at every opportunity, so there isn't much previous information to look at.

To help, the Bulldogs have one of the best point guards in the country in Nigel Williams-Goss, whose height at 6-foot-3 could help a bit. Jordan Mathews has plenty of experience from his time at Cal with Josh Perkins and Silas Melson being the others that will help fight off the press. Gonzaga will likely work all week on finding ways to beat it, but it's never the same when facing the WVU press in person, as Notre Dame can attest to. But when Gonzaga beats the press, West Virginia will need to find a way to stop Przemek Karnowski, who usually plows through any of his competition down low. Karnowski doesn't play extreme minutes, but is often fed the ball plenty along with stud freshman Zach Collins. The question is if Karnowski can stay on the floor defensively because he'll have to go up against the likes of Elijah Macon or Nathan Adrian, both of whom are athletic and spread the floor.

West Virginia can get production from anyone on the court and that's where the advantage could come. Jevon Carter dropped 24 points in the win over Notre Dame, but Tarik Phillip and Daxter Miles can do the same thing in any given game. The question will be how the WVU bigs perform against the Gonzaga frontcourt. With Karnowski likely a problem to defend Macon or Adrian, Johnathan Williams is going to be an important piece to the Bulldogs. And West Virginia will likely roll with its bigger lineup, which places the 6-foot-8 Esa Ahmad at the three-spot. If that's the case, he'll see a lot of shorter players on him as Gonzaga's size all comes in the frontcourt.

A lot of the information above points to West Virginia having more advantages and that may be the case, but the Mountaineers have struggled at times this season if they don't force turnovers, while their half-court offense is far from consistent. If Williams-Goss can run the show and Gonzaga stays around 10-12 turnovers, the Bulldogs get the biggest edge.

Our Pick - WVA +3

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