Neither one of these teams had an easy opener, but they made it to the Round of 32 so there’s not much to complain about. With the Game coming in Boise, about a six-hOur drive south of Gonzaga’s campus, the Bulldogs opened as -3.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
These teams met at the beginning of the season in Portland and it was a runaway with Gonzaga winning 86-59. At that point, Ohio State was expected to be one of the worst teams in the Big Ten so the result wasn’t too surprising. Obviously, things have changed a lot since then with the Buckeyes a 5-seed in the Tournament. Look for them to put up a much better fight, mainly Keita Bates-Diop, who had just seven points that first meeting.
While that Game was a blowout, it was close for the first 15 minutes until Josh Perkins caught fire from deep and hit six threes. That stat is relevant because that was the last time Perkins made more than five threes in a Game and he’s just 3-of-16 in the last Four Games. The other outlier from that contest was Johnathan Williams, who did whatever he wanted en route to 21 points. There’s a good chance Bates-Diop will have the task of locking down Williams and that’s a more even matchup than the previous Game would suggest.
ACCording to the numbers, both of these teams are solid at both ends of the cOurt, although Gonzaga rates slightly better on the offensive end. Both are great inside the arc and both have guys that can hit threes, while Gonzaga has better rebounding numbers, especially on the defensive end.
Bates-Diop against Williams will be the premier matchup to watch in this Game. Even though Williams dominated that first one, it’s hard to go against the Big Ten Player of the Year because Bates-Diop has now scored at least 24 points in the last three Games. If Bates-Diop can make shots from deep, which he didn’t really try in that first Game, OSU will keep this one much more competitive.
At center, Kaleb Wesson will try and lock down Killian Tillie, which is more than possible even though Tillie can shoot with range. He really struggled on Thursday and couldn’t get anything going. For the Buckeyes to win, Bates-Diop has to play well, but everyone else has to step up like CJ Jackson, Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams. Those guys did enough against South Dakota State and now they’ll have to deal with the much better Gonzaga backcOurt. Perkins was already mentioned, while Silas Melson provides experience and Zach Norvell has scored at least 14 points in the last five Games.
A lot of people will simply look at the previous meeting and take Gonzaga, but there’s a lot more to it. Bates-Diop is playing at another level, while other guys like Andre Wesson and CJ Jackson are massively improved since that November meeting. The Bulldogs don’t have a major matchup advantage at any spot on the floor and that’s why taking Ohio State could be a good route with likely the best player in the Game in Bates-Diop. Then again, you can’t completely ignore that 27-point Gonzaga win, can you?
Our Pick – Ohio State +3.5