Zags about to hit bump in road but still advance

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

April 1, 2017 01:21 PM
WilliamsGoss
Veteran point guard Nigel Williams-Goss leads favored Gonzaga against South Carolina in the first NCAA semifinal matchup today.
© USA Today Sports Images

It was a struggle, a road that for many years was littered with disappointment and failure. This time, though, the road to the Final Four opened up for Gonzaga and coach Mark Few to finally break through.

This was pretty easy. The Zags basically got a police escort to the NCAA semifinals, passing South Dakota State, Northwestern, West Virginia and Xavier on the way to Glendale, Ariz. Only the Mountaineers, as a No. 4, were seeded better than eighth in the West Region.

Next up is seventh-seeded South Carolina, the surprise winner in the East. The Gamecocks opened the tournament by winning a pick’em game before upsetting No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Baylor and No. 4 Florida. It was a rough road.

But how the teams got here no longer matters. Both teams are legit. The coaches and their defenses are rock solid. What matters is how Gonzaga and South Carolina match up today, and the tale of the tape slightly favors the Zags.

The Gamecocks wear down opponents with relentless defensive pressure on the perimeter. Each pass and 3-point look gets contested. South Carolina is the college version of the San Antonio Spurs, with 6-foot-5 senior guard Sindarius Thornwell playing the role of Kawhi Leonard. Thornwell has averaged 25.8 points in four tournament games, and he’s a lethal weapon on the defensive end, too.

Thornwell missed Thursday’s practice with the flu, but he returned Friday to say he’s good to go. Gonzaga’s defensive plan will zero in on Thornwell, and if he has to do it all, the Gamecocks cannot win. Other scorers — most likely sophomore guard PJ Dozier  — will need to emerge, as is often the case in big games such as this.

The Zags’ obvious edge is inside with 7-1 Przemek Karnowski, 7-foot freshman Zach Collins and 6-9 forward Johnathan Williams. Expect the ball to get pounded into the low post to Karnowski, who uses his power to draw fouls and get to the rim. If the defense doubles down, Karnowski is adept at passing out to open shooters. Collins and Williams are more athletic and versatile. South Carolina lacks front line depth, so 6-9 forward Chris Silva must avoid foul trouble, and he’ll need help from his teammates.

The wild card will be Nigel Williams-Goss, an intelligent, veteran point guard who can handle pressure and execute the offense. If Goss plays well, Gonzaga should be in good shape. The Gamecocks took advantage of a Duke team with an inexperienced point guard and a Baylor team with a weakness at point guard and a weak coach.

South Carolina coach Frank Martin has a physical team that mirrors West Virginia in many ways. The Zags were fortunate to get by the Mountaineers 61-58 in the Sweet 16. This matchup shapes up as a similar dogfight.

I bet the Gamecocks last week in both of their wins, and I played them again as 7-point underdogs in this one. The line has dipped to 6½ at most books. Slowing down Thornwell is easier said than done, and Martin is not going down without a fight. I project Gonzaga, because of its strength at the guard positions and size advantage, to win by four points.

My lean is under the total of 137½ or 138, due to the defenses and tricky shooting background in a football stadium. But in a situation like this, the number of free throws that will be attempted late in the game is too random to predict, so I stayed away from the total.

In the nightcap, more sharp bettors preferred Oregon as a 5-point underdog against North Carolina. The line has dropped to 4½.

Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey make the Ducks dangerous, but this is where they will miss injured Chris Boucher on the front line. Jordan Bell will have issues with athletic Tar Heels forwards Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. The mystery is how effective point guard Joel Berry II will be on a pair of sore ankles.

South Point sports book director Chris Andrews took a large moneyline wager Friday on North Carolina — $525,000 to win $250,000. That’s a bold bet. I expect the Tar Heels to advance, but I’m not laying a price or more than a few points with Roy Williams in a coaching matchup with Dana Altman. This will be a live wagering game for me, watching and waiting for a better spot to bet.

The underdogs look live, but South Carolina is my only play today, and a Gonzaga-North Carolina matchup is probably what we will see on Monday night.

Last weekend: 2-1 against the spread

Season: 35-24-4

FINAL FOUR PROPOSITIONS

Posted at Westgate sports book

(All sides are minus-110)

Gonzaga-South Carolina

Total 3-point field goals made by both teams: 12.5

Largest lead of the game by either team: 15.5

Points by Sindarius Thornwell (SC): 22.5

Points by Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga): 18.5

North Carolina-Oregon

Total 3-point field goals made by both teams: 15

Largest lead of the game by either team: 14.5

Points by Tyler Dorsey (Oregon): 20.5

Points by Dillon Brooks (Oregon) 18.5

Points by Justin Jackson (NC): 19.5

Points by Joel Berry (NC): 15.5

back to news

QuickPicks_300x250_080920_NFLkickoff

Headlines

View All
  • Magny should shine in Fight Island 8

    Magny should shine in Fight Island 8

    Wednesday’s UFC event begins at 6 a.m. Pacific Time, so the theme might as well be Beatdowns and Bagels. Max Holloway dominated Calvin Kattar...
  • Watch bombers in Palm Springs event

    Watch bombers in Palm Springs event

    Kevin Na shot 61-65 on the weekend to win the Sony Open in Hawaii at as high as 80-1 odds. Na (40-1) will attempt to win in back-to-back weeks this week...
  • Schedule critical in CBB futures bets

    Schedule critical in CBB futures bets

    Last week we discussed the importance of taking a positive approach to college basketball futures betting. That is, focus on playing plus numbers instead...
  • First impressions as hockey returns

    First impressions as hockey returns

    It’s great to have hockey back, but bettors must temper their expectations and trust their preseason projections. Therefore, this is a great time...
  • Tuley's Takes on Championship Sunday

    Tuley's Takes on Championship Sunday

    The NFL’s divisional playoff round was a mixed bag for us here at the Tuley’s Takes home office, though I spent Saturday at Circa with VSiN...
  • Injuries dog Chiefs, but Packers on roll

    Injuries dog Chiefs, but Packers on roll

    And then there were four. We’re looking forward to what is maybe the single best day on the NFL calendar: Championship Sunday. The matchups are...
  • Championship Sunday: Sifting recent trends

    Championship Sunday: Sifting recent trends

    For as different as this NFL season has been due to the impact of COVID-19, the first two weeks of the playoffs have generally followed the trends of...
  • How to gain edge betting CBB rematches

    How to gain edge betting CBB rematches

    (To view the charts with this report, subscribe to Point Spread Weekly) In a typical college basketball season, and to a lesser degree this season,...
  • Mahomes mystery puts oddsmakers in bind

    Mahomes mystery puts oddsmakers in bind

    It’s generally easy for oddsmakers to post lines on most NFL games. The numbers are typically airtight, unlike in college football. A quarterback...
  • Championship Sunday capsules

    Championship Sunday capsules

    NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME Buccaneers at Packers (3:05 p.m. ET Sunday) The Packers opened as consensus four-point home favorites against the...
  • With Pacers surging, Clippers on long haul

    With Pacers surging, Clippers on long haul

    Another week gone, and bettors have yet to see any NBA team separate itself from the pack. The Los Angeles Lakers seem like the surest thing on the board,...
  • 10 months in making, going all in on Bucs

    10 months in making, going all in on Bucs

    I made some bets on the Buccaneers last March that are now very much alive. These were placed the night before Tom Brady announced where he was signing....

Google Play
App Store
Close