Florida State’s shocking defeat of the top-seeded Musketeers—along with Texas A&M’s ousting of the defending champions, second-seeded North Carolina—set up a riveting West regional in Los Angeles this week. Gonzaga has a clear path back to the Elite Eight for the third time in four years, opening as a six-point favorite over the ‘Noles. The Bulldogs are the second-largest favorite of all the Sweet 16 teams, with only Duke—the Blue Devils are 11-point chalk against Syracuse—more likely to advance to the next round according to the oddsmakers in Vegas. FSU may be a major underdog, but that status didn’t deter the team last week. The Seminoles were also getting six points against Xavier in the second round and outright won, 75-70, to get back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011.
Tim Linafelt noted that Florida State had never beaten a No. 1 seed until this year:
Will the Bulldogs be able to take care of business tonight and move on face Michigan or Texas A&M in the Elite Eight, or will Florida State move one step closer to cutting down the nets this weekend? Jon Price of Sportsinformationtraders.com is back with a Big Dance prediction for this contest. Before getting to the pro handicapper’s projection for the ‘Zags vs. ‘Noles, take a look at the complete schedule, start times, TV and live streaming info so you can watch online, plus updated odds and picks for every Sweet 16 game in the 2018 NCAA Tournament:
2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Schedule, Viewing Guide And Odds
|Time (ET)||Matchup (TV)||Odds||Pick|
|Thursday, March 22|
|7:07 p.m.||No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (CBS)||NEV -1.5||LCHI|
|7:37 p.m.||No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M (TBS)||UM -2.5||UM|
|9:37 p.m.||No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State (CBS)||UK -5.5||UK|
|10:07 p.m.||No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State (TBS)||GONZ -6||GONZ|
|Friday, March 23|
|7:07 p.m.||No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson (CBS)||KU -4.5||KU|
|7:37 p.m.||No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia (TBS)||NOVA -5.5||NOVA|
|9:37 p.m.||No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 Syracuse (CBS)||DUKE -11.5||DUKE|
|9:57 p.m.||No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (TBS)||PUR -2||TTU|
NCAA Tournament Odds Via BetDSI Sportsbook
All games streaming via March Madness Live
South Regional Preview: No. 4 Gonzaga (32-4) Vs. No. 9 Florida State (22-11)
When: Thursday, March 22 at 10:07 p.m. ET
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Point Spread: Gonzaga -6
Preview: The Bulldogs have been here before, with head coach Mark Few’s squad gearing up for its fourth straight Sweet 16 contest. A couple of players on the roster are veterans of the previous three trips to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend, including guards Josh Perkins and Silas Melson. It’s a redshirt freshman with no tourney experience, however, that has served as the ‘Zags’ sparkplug during the Big Dance.
Zach Norvell Jr., a 6’5” guard from Chicago, had a strong first season in Spokane, averaging 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Those are solid figures, but the freshman exploded in Boise, putting up a career-high 28 points and 12 boards against Ohio State in the Round of 32, which followed up a respectable 15-point outing in his first ever March Madness contest against UNC Greensboro. Norvell Jr. may not have put up huge numbers against the Spartans, but he made sure the ‘Zags would avoid being the victim of a first round upset by hitting a clutch three-pointer with the score tied and 21 seconds left on the clock. It’s possible, if not likely, that the Bulldogs would be home watching the Sweet 16 today if it weren’t for Norvell Jr.’s big shot.
Eric Crawford found that neither of the team’s involved in this contest have had much luck against Sweet 16-caliber opponents in 2017-18:
NCAA Sweet 16 team records against the other 15 . . .
Texas Tech 5-3
Tex A&M 2-2
Florida St. 1-2
Kansas State 0-7
Few said that Norvell Jr.’s outgoing personality is driving the school’s success, according to the Denver Post:
He’s got a persona that we really need in our program right now, quite frankly. We have an overabundance of introverts and that’s one thing he’s not. And so I call him our spiritual leader. He gets us going every practice, even the ones they don’t want to be at.
One area of concern for Gonzaga is its free throw shooting. The players haven’t been hitting their attempts from the charity stripe, making a mere 57.1% of foul shots during the first week of the NCAA Tournament. The team missed three free throws in a row that should have iced the game against UNC Greensboro, letting the Spartans hang around even after Norvell Jr.’s huge go-ahead trey.
Despite that glaring hole in their game, Gonzaga has the look of a team that could go all the way and finally win its first national championship this year. It has been dominating on both ends of the floor, outscoring foes by an average of nearly 17 points per game this season. The Bulldogs are one of only two programs—Duke being the other—that falls inside the top-15 for both offense (No. 12) and defense (No. 14), according to the efficiency-adjusted KenPom.com rankings. They just dropped 90 on a Buckeyes group that was holding opponents to fewer than 65 points per game and ranked No. 16 in the nation on the defensive end.
Jay Bilas noted that Gonzaga has the least amount of undergrads enrolled of any Sweet 16 program, while FSU has more than any school besides Texas A&M:
Florida State, which ranks No. 34 in offense and No. 54 in defense by those same metrics, hasn’t been on the same level as the ‘Zags this year. It’s been inconsistent this season, to say the least, but can get hot for stretches and hang around with superior squads if the roster—which is rangy and full of plus-athletes—is locked in. Head coach Leonard Hamilton leans heavily on his reserves and has used at least 11 players in each game the team played in Nashville, a decision that has clearly paid off. The Seminoles bench has contributed an average of 43.5 points per game—and 65 of the team’s 142 total points—against Missouri and Xavier, far and away the most of any NCAA Tournament team thus far.
Darren Rovell pointed out that Hamilton has cashed in on bonuses during this Sweet 16 run:
No coach has earned more bonuses this tournament than Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton ($525,000)
NCAA Tourney Bid: $200,000
Back-to-Back seasons in tourney: $50,000
Round of 32 appearance: $50,000
Sweet 16 appearance: $225,000
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 19, 2018
Hamilton told reporters (as per ESPN) that he doesn’t believe low seeds beating their higher-seeded brethren in the opening rounds of March Madness should be described as a series of upsets, but rather a “revolution”:
I think what you see happening in college basketball, it’s almost like a revolution. What happens is, you start categorizing people by the reputation that their players get going into college. But in reality, kids are playing basketball all over the country and teams are getting better. Just because maybe they might not be in one particular conference or maybe they’re not considered to be one of the more traditional rich schools, people are playing basketball.
FSU entered March Madness having lost six of its last 10 games, but the veteran-laden squad turned it around in time to make a run to the regional. Most impressively, the ‘Noles have succeeded with Terance Mann, one of their top scorers, nursing a groin injury during the first week. Mann is one of just three players on the roster to average double figures and is also the team’s leading rebounder. He started poorly off against the Tigers, scoring just two points in 16 minutes in the game, but looked a bit healthier against the Musketeers. He chipped in 10 points (on 4-of-5 shooting) off the bench to help secure the improbable upset. With a few days of rest under his belt, Mann could be poised for a big outing against the ‘Zags. His team will certainly need a barrage of points from Mann and the rest of the lineup to have a chance of winning in the Sweet 16.
SB Nation noted that Gonzaga has gone a full decade with at least one NCAA Tournament victory every year:
Gonzaga has won at least one game in the Big Dance in each of the last 10 years!
Jon Price believes that the impressive run of the Seminoles comes to an end against the battle-hardened Bulldogs tonight. Gonzaga is too deep, too experienced and too hungry to settle for exiting at this point of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The program staved off two upset attempts in the opening rounds and won’t get caught napping against a foe that knocked off the West’s No. 1 seed on Saturday. Florida State has been a great March Madness story, but it doesn’t possess the firepower to hang with the ‘Zags for 40 minutes. Lay the points and go with the favorite in a matchup that will be over well before the final buzzer sounds.