West Region Sweet 16 Prediction & Free Pick: #1 Gonzaga vs. #4 Florida State

Date | AuthorJonathan Willis

Last Updated: 2019-03-25

The No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs have been a Sweet 16 mainstay. This is the fifth straight season that the Bulldogs have made it to the second week of the NCAA Tournament, and they have the longest active streak of consecutive Sweet 16 appearances. As good as Gonzaga has been at getting to this point, with 10 appearances in the last 20 seasons overall, Elite Eight berths have been difficult. Gonzaga has only made it to the Elite Eight three times in its history. The Bulldogs will be out to buck history when they face the No. 4 seed Florida State Seminoles on Thursday.

This is the first Sweet 16 game of the second week of the NCAA Tournament. #1 Gonzaga is a 6.5-point favorite over #4 Florida State in this West Region Semifinal at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The total for this game has been set at 147.5 points. It will tip off at 7:09 p.m. ET and be broadcast on CBS. The winner of this game will face either Texas Tech or Michigan on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

How They Got Here

FSU has some pretty impressive wins on its resume, and some argued that the Seminoles should have been a No. 3 seed. The Noles knocked off LSU and Purdue in non-conference play and have wins over other Sweet 16 teams Virginia Tech and Virginia too. In their first round game, FSU received a test from Vermont before pulling away on the strength of 49 second half points. On Saturday, FSU left no doubt who was the better team in a 90-62 thrashing of Murray State.

As for Gonzaga, the Bulldogs have been one of the best teams in the nation and deserved a No. 1 seed even though they lost to Saint Mary’s in their conference tournament. The Bulldogs are the only team in the country that has beat Duke when the Blue Devils were at full strength, and they have not been tested in the NCAA Tournament to this point. Gonzaga beat Fairleigh Dickinson 87-49 in their first round game and raced out to a 39-23 halftime lead on Baylor before cruising to a 12-point win.

Preview

Many observers have already put Gonzaga on upset alert ahead of this one. Florida State has one of the most athletic teams in the country, and the ACC has proven that it is the deepest conference in the nation with five Sweet 16 teams.

FSU has a much deeper bench than most teams and rotates a lot of players in and out. The Seminoles don’t play at a fast pace, but they have a very in your face defensive style, and that has made them one of the best defenses.

It’s going to be tough for Gonzaga to score inside given the size and athleticism of Florida State’s big men. The Seminoles have four great defenders that are 6’7 or taller in Terance Mann, Phil Cofer, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Christ Koumadje, and opponents are hitting just 45.5 percent of their two-pointers against this team.

They will present the most efficient offense in the country by a variety of metrics some challenges. Gonzaga is No. 1 in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, two-point percentage, and block percentage according to Ken Pomeroy.

Big men Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, and Killian Tillie are some of the most efficient shooters in the country, with Hachimura hitting 61.3 percent of his twos and Clarke sinking an incredible 71.6 percent of his twos. However, they have not faced a defense this big and athletic since taking on teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Tennessee almost three months ago.

Three-point shooting is going to be huge in this one. Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, and Corey Kispert are all hitting at least 36 percent from the floor for Gonzaga, and FSU’s defense has been susceptible to three-point shooters. Conversely, FSU doesn’t shoot the three ball often or very well, and Terance Mann is the only solid shooter on the roster.

Pick: Under 147.5

There has already been line movement on FSU here. The Noles opened as a 7.5-point underdog and the line has since come down a full point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this line come down another 1 or 1.5 points, but I think the better bet is the under.

I think FSU’s bigs are going to give Gonzaga’s frontcourt a ton of trouble. The Bulldogs aren’t used to taller players that can lock you down and force you into difficult positions, and it will show. I see Gonzaga eventually prevailing late through the three ball, but this game is going to be ugly.

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