Round of 32 Betting Preview: (7) Iowa v. (2) Gonzaga

kevin-pangos-gonzaga-2012(7) Iowa v. (2) Gonzaga
Time: 7:10 PM ET, TV: TBS
Spread: GON -6.5
M/L: GON -275; IOW +235
Total: 137

Betting odds c/o Bovada

The No. 7 seeded Iowa Hawkeyes will meet No. 2 seeded Gonzaga in a matchup that may not even be as close as the 6.5 point spread set by college basketball oddsmakers. Live NCAA basketball lines at Bovada set an over/under of 145.

The Iowa Hawkeyes ended the season with a loss to Penn State, which was disappointing for Iowa faithful since the team had managed to take down PSU just two weeks prior on Feb 28 in an overtime battle. Wins over Indiana and Northwestern were more definitive, but Davidson promises to be a tough match for Iowa.

The Hawkeyes are a very well balanced team, but have its struggles offensively to say the very least. It only averaged 69 points per game this season while shooting an abysmal 42 percent from the floor as a team. It works well against lesser opponents, but Iowa finished the season just 2-5 against AP Ranked opponents, which should limit the enthusiasm of Iowa fans, given that those are the teams comprising this elite tournament. The lack of offense just limits Iowa in a way that may not matter in this opening round matchup, but it will debilitate Iowa against the better defensive teams entirely capable of stifling its already weak offense.

Iowa makes up for a good bit of it by being a good rebounding team. The Hawkeyes finished 35th in the nation in rebounding and its top two leading scorers Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff also are the top-two rebounders on the squad. White is averaging 16 points per game and the 6’9” senior forward has seen significant minutes all four of his NCAA seasons, with modest improvements until he became the offensive focus this season. He’s efficient (see: 50 percent field goals and just 1.2 turnovers per game) and he can step out and knock down the triple proficiently at 33.3 percent on 1.7 attempts per game.

Even more importantly, White is a good free throw shooter at 81.5 percent and he gets to the line 7.3 times per game. His interior presence is essentially what keeps Iowa in games, because outside of White and Uthoff there aren’t a lot of scoring options. Foul trouble to White would take Iowa out of this, but he averaged just 1.6 fouls per game in the regular season, smart enough to know that without being on the court the Hawkeyes chances aren’t good.

Even with all these issues, the Hawkeyes disposed of No. 10 seeded Davidson with great ease in second round play, winning the game by 31 points and holding Davidson to just 33 percent shooting from the floor. Forward Aaron White basically had the game of his career, hitting 11 of 14 from the floor for 26 points while also snagging six boards. Iowa shot 50.7 percent from the floor as a team while turning the ball over just five times in the game. The Hawkeyes only attempted 10 free throws, however, and getting to the line against Gonzaga could be the difference maker if Iowa is to cover the spread.

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).

It’s hard to believe Gonzaga was outscored by No. 15 seeded North Dakota State in the second half, but fortunately for the Bulldogs it held a 13-point lead at the half. The Bisons’ bench hurt the Bulldogs badly, accounting for 35 points, all of which came from Dexter Werner and Paul Miller. The Bulldogs got a typically strong game from Kyle Wiltjer who lit the Bison up for 23 points, while Gonzaga put three other scorers in double figures. Domatas Sabonis had a nice game off the bench, grabbing 11 rebounds in 23 minutes, five of which came on the offensive glass. The Bulldogs held a plus-11 advantage on the boards, and that is going to be crucial in this game given the fact that Iowa already shoots the ball poorly.

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