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WVU, Gonzaga meet in Sweet 16 Thursday
By: Zach Cohen - StatFox
Published: 3/23/2017  at  7:44:00 AM
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WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (30-4)

vs. GONZAGA BULLDOGS (24-7)

NCAA Tournament
West Regional Semifinals – SAP Center – San Jose, CA
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:30 pm ET
Line: Gonzaga -3.0, Total: 148.0

Both West Virginia and Gonzaga will be looking to inch closer to a spot in the Final Four with a win in San Jose on Thursday.

West Virginia was dealt a pretty difficult hand this tournament, as the Mountaineers had to face a very good Fighting Irish team in the Round of 32. They were, however, up to the challenge, as they won 83-71 as 2.5-point favorites in that matchup last Saturday. West Virginia shot 50.0% from the floor in that contest, and the Mountaineers also won the battle on the glass 34-28. That will be extremely important on Thursday, as West Virginia can’t afford to be manhandled on the boards in this one. Gonzaga has, however, outrebounded its opponent in five straight games. The Bulldogs had to face Northwestern last round, and they won 79-73 in a game that almost slipped away from them late. Gonzaga was up double digits nearly the entire game, but Northwestern never went away. Now the Bulldogs will need to focus on playing a complete game. They will need to play hard for all 40 minutes or their hopes of reaching the Final Four and winning a championship will fade quickly. It’s worth noting that these teams have met three times since 1997, and Gonzaga is 3-0 both SU and ATS in those contests. The most recent meeting was, however, in 2013 and C Przemek Karnowski (12.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.0 BPG) and F Nathan Adrian (9.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG) are the only players from either of these teams that were on the court in that game. As for notable trends in this one, both teams have some nice ones working in their favor. West Virginia can look to the fact that the team was 8-2 ATS after non-conference games this season. Gonzaga, meanwhile, was 20-7 ATS after playing three straight games as a favorite on the year.

The Mountaineers played one of their better games of the year on Saturday, and G Jevon Carter (13.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.8 APG, 2.5 SPG) showed up big when his team needed him most. Every time Notre Dame appeared to be threatening, Carter came back and hit a big shot for West Virginia. He played 37 minutes in that game and scored 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the floor. He was also 4-for-5 from deep, and he’ll hope to stay hot in this one. West Virginia is going to have a lot of trouble handling a guy like Karnowski in the paint, so it will need to win this one from the outside. That means that Gs Daxter Miles Jr. (8.8 PPG, 1.3 SPG) and Tarik Phillip (9.6 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.8 SPG) will also need to come up big for their team. The two of them combined to score 30 points for the Mountaineers, going 3-for-5 from the outside. It’s possible that they’ll need to be even better on Thursday. On the inside, Adrian and F Esa Ahmad (11.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG) will have their work cut out for them. They’ll be giving up a lot of size to Gonzaga’s frontcourt, so they will both need to work harder than they have ever worked to secure rebounds.

Gonzaga was everybody’s pick to be the #1 seed to lose early, but the Bulldogs have made it to the second weekend. They definitely have had their struggles, but they have also shown glimpses of the team we saw during the regular season. Perhaps a meeting with a talented West Virginia team will bring out the best in the Bulldogs, as they’ll know that any lousy stretches will really put them in a bad position. Karnowski is going to be one of the more important players for this team on Thursday. Nobody on West Virginia has his size, so he’ll really need to play well around the basket. Karnowski had just nine points on 3-for-6 shooting against Northwestern, and that type of performance is not going to work against the Mountaineers. If he struggles then head coach Mark Few will not hesitate to put freshman C Zach Collins (10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG) in. Collins was a beast against the Wildcats, finishing the game with 14 points, five boards and four blocks in 21 minutes of action. He is very active around the basket, and his quickness might be better suited for this matchup. As for the guard play, both Gs Nigel Williams-Goss (16.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.7 SPG) and Jordan Mathews (10.7 PPG) will need to play well here. Wiliams-Goss is going to need to continue to run the offense efficiently, even with West Virginia’s pressure right in his face. Mathews, meanwhile, will need to hit the three-ball. He’s playing well this tournament, averaging 15.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 2.0 SPG thus far.

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