Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of the toughest No. 2 seeds in a while. Compiling a 32-2 record while losing just one game in the WCC, it drew No. 15 North Dakota State. NCAA basketball oddsmakers set the line at a conservative 17 points in favor of the Bulldogs, and the total is precariously low at 129.
The Bulldogs are offensive juggernauts. It led the NCAA in field goal percentage at 52.4 percent, while also racking up nearly 80 points per game. The rebounding is solid (30th in nation), and ball movement is crisp. Watching Gonzaga play is a thing of beauty, and with Kyle Wiltjer having somehow increased his productivity by leaps and bounds following transferring to Gonzaga, the team has the weapons to out-score even the best teams in this tournament. The balance will serve it well, given that in the WCC title win over BYU it put six scorers in double figures, while shooting 53.7 percent from the floor in the game and hitting 8 of 12 from behind the arc.
While BYU is hardly the caliber of teams in this tournament, it is still a far tougher squad than what the Bulldogs will encounter vs. North Dakota State. And then there is the fact that Gonzaga showed its mortality by losing to BYU this season, too. The other loss came to No. 2 seeded Arizona, an excusable loss, and the Bulldogs knocked off the only other AP ranked opponent it faced (SMU).
North Dakota St. is just not a good team. It finished the season with a very deceiving 23-9 record, but was just 11-5 in non-conference play and it ranks near the bottom of all major statistical categories, even averaging less than 10 assists per game, a product of hitting just 43 percent from the floor as a team. In its only tough game of the year against Texas in the season opener, it was crushed 85-50, and while the spread is set at just 17 points for this affair, it would not be surprising in any way whatsoever to see this turn into that type of game.
Essentially, the Bison rely on Lawrence Alexander to carry the team, but he’s another low percentage shooter, just one that can hit the triple quite well. He shoots 44 percent from three and averages 18.9 points per game, but after he and A.J. Jacobson (11.9 points per game), the Bison really don’t have any offensive weapons to speak of. No significant rotation player shoots over 50 percent from the floor and the team matches its 10 assists per game with an equal 10 turnovers. Even Jacobson and Alexander catching fire won’t make this any less than a 10 point loss, and that seems silly to think about even. This may as well be a 16 vs. a 1.
Overall, the theme of this game will be NDS having no chance to stop Wiltjer or Kevin Pangos. Both are experienced performers and Wiltjer does a bit of everything, ranking second on the team in rebounding too with six boards per contest, while also dishing out five assists per. Gonzaga plays a weak schedule every year, but NDS is a weak team even compared to its WCC foes. Essentially, it’s tough to imagine the Bison finishing any higher than fifth or sixth in a weak conference like the WCC, which doesn’t bode well for its chances of keeping this game close.