#1 Gonzaga vs. #4 West Virginia
Storyline: West Virginia’s press vs. Gonzaga’s bigs
This is one matchup that involves team’s that want to play very different styles. West Virginia is going to press the Zags for 40 mins with hopes of getting turnovers and easy buckets. Gonzaga wants to play fast, but they also want to get the ball to bigs Karnowski and Collins. West Virginia will need big man Esa Ahmad to step up in order to slow down the Gonzaga bigs and force them into turning it over. Karnowski and Collins are very skilled but if they are forced to handle the ball more due to the press that could be trouble for Mark Few’s team. The flip side of that is that if Collins and Karnowski can get the ball in the post, they are unstoppable and both are great passers making it tough on any defense. Other than Jarrett Allen, the Big-12 lacked quality post players this season. Both these teams are unfamiliar with the personnel type and style of play this season.
I am predicting Gonzaga will win this one for three main reasons. First off, the Zags have all week to prepare for this game. West Virginia is at its best in the tourney when teams have one or two days to prepare to face the press and stout defense. Gonzaga will have a week of practice to prepare for the press. Second off, Nigel Williams-Goss is a player maker and has had a phenomenal year. He is the main piece of that press break and will protect the ball. Finally, Gonzaga only has a short trip to San Jose to play. West Virginia has to fly across the country for the Thursday night game. That limits preparation time and could effect players with the long trip and time change. West Virginia would overcome a lot to win this game but Bob Huggins and his style of play gives them a chance in any game.
Prediction: Gonzaga 68, West Virginia 58