These teams aren’t on the national radar like Duke or North Carolina, but this may be the most intriguing matchup of the Sweet 16. Gonzaga and Florida State met in this spot last year and while the Seminoles won as a 9-seed (Gonzaga was a 4-seed), they’re decent underdogs for this one. The Bulldogs opened as -7 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
This Game is in Anaheim, so that could be relevant. FSU played its first two Games in Hartford, while Gonzaga was in Salt LAke City and has stayed near the west coast almost all season. The ‘Noles used depth, defense and size in last year’s 75-60 win, racking up a combined 17 blocks and steals with only one player (Terance Mann, 18 points) surpassing nine points. Gonzaga just couldn’t find its shot, going 20-for-59 from the field (15-for-39 inside the arc). The biggest difference is that they replaced Johnathan Williams with Brandon Clarke and Killian Tillie (injured last year).
Even playing in the ACC, Florida State’s defense ranks better in terms of efficiency at 10th in the country compared to Gonzaga’s 16th. Sure, the Zags are first in offensive efficiency, but they haven’t played many defenses like FSU’s this season. They took down Duke, but also managed only 73 points in a loss to Tennessee, falling apart late. Gonzaga’s stats are great, but they were last year and that didn’t matter in this meeting.
The frontcOurt matchup is most intriguing with Clarke, Tillie and Rui Hachimura going against Mfiondu Kabengale, Christ Koumadje and a mix of other lengthy FSU guys. The edge probably goes to the Bulldogs because they almost always have two dynamic playmakers on the floor with Hachimura and Clarke. The question is if they can get easy looks over 7-foot-4 Koumadje. And when Kabengale comes in, he’s in the same mold as Hachimura and Clarke as a 6-8 guy that can do a little bit of everything on both ends of the cOurt. Gonzaga probably has more offensive power down low since Koumadje is mostly a defensive guy, but that advantage is minimal.
The depth in the backcOurt is where FSU shined in last year’s Game because while Zach Norvell and Josh Perkins had to play almost 40 minutes, Mann only needed 33 minutes to Scorea Game-high 18 points. In addition to Mann, the Seminoles have numerous guys that can step in and get buckets with Trent Forrest the best creator, but others like David Nichols, MJ Walker, PJ Savoy, Devin Vassell and Raiquan Gray all able to get buckets. Phil Cofer is battling a foot injury and his status shouldn’t change the spread much because while he can be a great player, he’s battled injuries all season and just hasn’t been effective.
FSU’s ability to constantly switch defenders on the likes of Norvell, Perkins and Corey Kispert is a definite advantage and that was seen last year, as well as against Ja Morant last round. Norvell can be an elite player, but he’s struggled to consistently Scorein recent Games, while Perkins is mostly there to run the show and averages 6.4 assists per Game.
Florida State has lost just two of its last 18 Games and those came against North Carolina on the road and Duke in the ACC Tournament final. This is a deep team with high-end talent between Mann and Kabengale. Gonzaga probably has more high-end talent, but guys like Clarke won’t have as easy of time as he did against Baylor last Game. This feels like a close contest throughout making the seven points too large of a spread.
Our Pick – Florida State +7.5