#3 BYU Cougars (31-4) vs. #11 Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-9)
Betting Line: Gonzaga -1.5 o/u 149.5
The third-seeded BYU Cougars (31-4) and 11th-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-9) made it this far in last year’s NCAA Tournament before losing, so it is no real surprise to see them both here again in the third round of the Big Dance, where they will face each other in the Southeast Region at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Saturday with a chance to get to the Sweet 16. The veteran teams are hoping past experiences will help them take that next step this time around and advance even further.
The Cougars held off #14 Wofford 74-66 on Thursday and were not able to really pull away until the last quarter of the Game. They led just 33-29 at halftime and came up just short on covering the 8.5-point line because the Terriers hung around for most of the Game. The team was up 57-51 with 7:15 remaining in the Game but extended the lead to 14 with just 3:47 left when Wofford went almost Four minutes without scoring,
BYU star guard Jimmer Fredette finished with a Game-high 32 points and eight assists but did not shoot the ball well, making just 10 of 25 from the field, including 2 of 9 from 3-point range. Fredette got some help from his teammates though, as Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock and Logan Magnusson each chipped in with 10 points apiece.
The biggest question mark for the Cougars heading into the Big Dance was who would replace leading rebounder Brandon Davies, who was kicked off the team late in the season for violating the school’s honor code. Kyle Collinsworth stepped up with a team-high 11 rebounds and Four steals but finished with only two points on 1 of 5 shooting.
Gonzaga was far more impressive in its 86-71 rout of #6 St. John’s, jumping out to a 43-32 halftime lead and building that in the second half. The Bulldogs shot nearly 54 percent from the field and made 9 of 15 shots from beyond the 3-point arc to win easily as 1-point underdogs.
Junior Marquise Carter scored a career-high 24 points to lead the charge for Gonzaga and could give Fredette fits since he is a bigger guard at 6-foot-4. The Bulldogs thrived once again in the underdog role out of the West Coast Conference even though they consider themselves a much better team and were on a mission to knock off the Red Storm, who are members of the nation’s best and biggest Conference in the Big East.
The Zags have now won 10 straight Games, going 7-2 against the spread in their lined Games over that stretch. BYU has not been the same team without Davies vs. the line, going 2-4 in six Games so far despite a 4-2 straight-up mark.
ScorePredicted SCore: BYU 77 Gonzaga 75