Thursday’s primetime battle in the NCAA’s East bracket pits the No. 7 Gonzaga Bulldogs against the No. 10 West Virginia Mountaineers, squaring off in Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center. Who are we adding to our NCAA Basketball picks?
Gonzaga heads east after a 4-4 spread record in its last eight games, while West Virginia plays in familiar territory after a 2-1 ATS run in its last three affairs.
Sportsbooks opened the matchup as a pick’em, with some college basketball betting shops shading West Virginia as a one-point favorite. Both squads cashed at 1-1 ATS in last year’s NCAA Tournament, with the ‘over’ collecting at a combined 3-0-1.
Lets look at this matchup and decide where we should place our NCAA Basketball picks.
Mountaineers ousted by Huskies
West Virginia blew an 11-point lead in last Wednesday’s 71-67 overtime setback as a two-point dog against the Connecticut Huskies, eliminating Bob Huggins’ crew from the Big East Tournament. The Mountaineers were held to 34.7 percent field shooting, including a 3-for-19 afternoon beyond the arc.
Mountaineers forward Kevin Jones notched 25 points and 10 boards, recording a third straight double-double.
Jones’ mate Dominique Rutledge logged team-highs of 11 rebounds and three assists, while finishing with six points off the bench.
The contest’s combined 138 points needed extra minutes to leap above the closing ‘total’ of 130 ½, bringing the ‘over’ to 2-1 in the Mountaineers’ last three games. West Virginia outrebounded the Huskies, 40-24, while allowing Jim Calhoun’s squad to connect 49 percent of its field buckets.
Zags edged out as ‘chalk’
Gonzaga saw its West Coast Conference title hopes denied on March 5, losing a 78-74 overtime battle as a two-point favorite against the Saint Mary’s Gaels. The Bulldogs hit 43.5 percent from the floor, while neither squad led by more than eight points.
Bulldogs forward Elias Harris piled in team-highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds, picking up a fourth double-double in six games. Harris’ mate Kevin Pangos was held to a 1-for-10 night beyond the arc, finishing with seven points and three assists in a full 45 minutes of action.
The tight affair’s combined 152 points soared above the ‘total’ of 134, ending a 7-0 ‘under’ run in the Bulldogs’ prior seven contests. Gonzaga hit 9-of-11 free throws, while center Robert Sacre logged three of his team’s four blocks.
Back WVU in its “backyard”
Thursday’s tip is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. (ET), with TNT providing the national television coverage.
I am adding West Virginia to my sports picks, grabbing Jones and Co. at a pick’em while the low premium lasts. Gonzaga has been overvalued in recent spots away from home, going just 1-8-1 ATS in its last 10 contests outside of Spokane, while the Mountaineers get a scheduling break here playing near its home base despite being a low seed.
Jones led a loaded Big East Conference in scoring (20.1 PPG) and rebounds (11.1 RPG) with 20.1 PPG for West Virginia, while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor. Look for the senior to go all out here after a promising run in last week’s conference tourney was washed away.
Gonzaga has given up 67.8 PPG away from home, including 45 percent field shooting. The Bulldogs will not have it any easier against a well-rested Mountaineers squad, who should look forward to some running and gunning compared to their usual smashmouth scrimmages in the Big East.
West Virginia is 5-1 ATS in its last six non-conference games, while notching a 10-4 spread record in its last 14 duels that followed a defeat. Look for Huggins to have his squad make a statement in Thursday’s opener, cashing tickets with a sizable win in Pittsburgh.
My Pick: West Virginia to cover