(7) Gonzaga vs. (10) West Virginia Preview
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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(7) Gonzaga Bulldogs
It just wouldn’t be a tournament without Mark Few’s Bulldogs, who are making their fourteenth-straight appearance. Their system continues to be the blueprint that every non high-major program tries to emulate. This year, they have a freshman guard in Kevin Pangos who has emerged as a star in year one. The first-year player is putting up a team-high 13.4 points and 3.4 assists a contest. The presence of big men Elias Harris and Robert Sacre, who combine to score 24 points and haul in 14 rebounds, on the frontline give them the size and strength to hang with anyone. On the year, the Bulldogs outrebounded their opponents by seven on average. They have some quality three-point shooters who play well off of their stars. The Bulldogs lost their only game against an RPI Top 25 team, but were an impressive 6-2 against teams ranked 26-75. Excessive turnovers hurt them throughout the season.
(10) West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers return to the tournament for the fifth-straight year with a stellar inside-outside duo in forward Kevin Jones and guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant. Jones gets 20 points, in a variety of ways, and 11 rebounds a night while Bryant scores 17 himself. The Mountaineers cannot advance without their two stars bringing their A games. Unlike most of the teams Bob Huggins has coached in the past, this year’s Mountaineers are not overly imposing defensively. They allow their opponents to score 66 points a game on 44 percent shooting from the field. They are still very physical, though, and have won the battle of the boards on the year by six on average. They are also very good at taking away the three-point shot. Against the RPI Top 25, the Mountaineers were 4-7. Coach Huggins does not have the depth to feel comfortable about playing more than six or seven guys. That puts a lot of pressure on Jones and Bryant to make sure they stay on the floor for as long as possible and avoid foul trouble.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Gonzaga. This is a really tough game to choose, but we’re going with the ‘Zags to limit Kevin Jones and knock off WV.
Who do you think is going win? Chime in by leaving a comment below!