#1 Gonzaga vs. #11 Xavier
Saturday 6 pm EST, TBS
Player to Watch: Przemek Karnowski
The polish senior big man has had a huge season for the Zags averaging 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. He has a variety of post moves and his experience could give him the edge that Lauri Markkanen did not have against the Musketeers. Xavier is very thin inside so Karnowski has a matchup advantage that must be exploited to knock off the Cinderella team.
X Factor: Stopping Trevon Bluiett
Trevon Bluiett has been a monster for Xavier in the tournament. If Gonzaga wants to win this game they will need to slow him down. The troubling thing is that Mark Few does not have a perfect matchup to put on Bluiett. The Bulldog backcourt could keep with Bluiett but at 6’5 Bluiett could easily shoot over them. The front court could block some shots but Bluiett could blow right by them. The Zags must stop Bluiett to come out on top.
Player to Watch: Trevon Bluiett
As mentioned above Bluiett has been an animal this tournament. With Michigan and Derrick Walton getting knocked off, Bluiett becomes the most important player left in the tournament. Without Bluiett Xavier is dead in the water. Bluiett has cashed in point totals of 21, 29, and 25 in the Musketeers tournament games thus far. On the season he is averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. All eyes will be on him as the game gets late on Saturday.
X Factor: Crowd Control
I was greatly impressed with the number of Xavier fans that made the trip to San Jose. That is not exactly an easy trip for a Thursday night game. The majority of the fans at the Elite 8 will be Gonzaga fans. There will be a ton of Arizona fans selling their tickets that will surely get gulped up by Gonzaga fans. Xavier can control the crowd by not allowing any major runs and responding to Gonzaga big plays with buckets of their own. Once the crowd gets rolling it can be tough to stay poised and execute your game plan.
Prediction: Gonzaga 75, Xavier 70
I keep picking against Xavier and they keep winning. Either team winning is a great story for the Final Four but Gonzaga is too talented and experienced to not get over the hump into the Final Four.