No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 Xavier Preview, Game Prediction

    Gonzaga vs. Xavier prediction and game preview, as the No. 1 Bulldogs and No. 11 Musketeers face off in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

    March 29, 2017

    Gonzaga vs. Xavier prediction and game preview, as the No. 1 Bulldogs and No. 11 Musketeers face off in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

    Mark Few’s squad can officially take a breath. For the second time in three years, No. 1 Gonzaga is back in the Elite Eight.

    The Bulldogs first had to slide past No. 16 South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 66-46. Then the Zags ended the Cinderella run for No. 8 Northwestern in the second round, 79-73. And in the Sweet 16, Gonzaga was matched up against No. 4 West Virginia.

    The Mountaineers put up a fight. With the seconds winding down, Gonzaga held a three-point lead, and back-to-back offensive rebounds from West Virginia saw Jevon Carter fail to get off one last three for a tie. The Bulldogs held on for the 61-58 victory.

    Now, they’ll go up against No. 11-seeded Xavier. The Musketeers pulled off an upset over No. 2 Arizona on Thursday night, 73-71.

    But Xavier’s route to the Elite Eight has been filled with upsets. In the first round, the Musketeers topped No. 6 Maryland, 76-65. And in the second round, Xavier found a way to take down No. 3-seeded Florida State with ease, 91-66.

    Gonzaga vs. Xavier Game Preview

    Date: March 25, 2017
    Venue: SAP Center, San Jose, California
    Region: West

    Gonzaga wins if …

    If the Bulldogs continue to play solid perimeter defense. They forced West Virginia to shoot 5-of-23 from behind the arc, and the Zags matched it by knocking down 4-of-10 three-point field goals on the other end of the floor. Three of them were made by Jordan Mathews, who hit a clutch, contested three to give Gonzaga the late lead against the Mountaineers. Mathews finished with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

    Mathews finished with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting. If he can be a little more efficient, the Bulldogs will simply need Przemek Karnowski (13 points) to establish himself down low while Johnathan Williams (13 points) also finds his shooting rhythm. On top of that, Gonzaga needs to clean up on the glass. It allowed 20 offensive rebounds to West Virginia, which just won’t cut it. That’s flirting with danger. The Zags need to do a better job of boxing out and securing the rebound.

    Xavier wins if …

    If the Musketeers can crash the glass against the Zags. Xavier was out-rebounded by Arizona, 35-27, but Gonzaga has been unable to secure the boards, and the Musketeers will have an opportunity at some second-chance points, which is where they can hurt the Bulldogs. Xavier can’t rely on J.P. Macura (seven rebounds) to be its leading rebounder like he was against Arizona. It will take a team effort.

    Along with that, the Musketeers need Trevon Bluiett to be as efficient from the field as he was with his 9-of-17 shooting performance in the Sweet 16. Bluiett’s 25 points included 3-of-8 shooting from three-point range. If he gets help from Macura (14 points) and Malcolm Bernard. The latter knocked down all three of his triples against the Wildcats, and if he can provide the same spacing and perimeter scoring against Gonzaga, Xavier will have a legitimate shot.

    Gonzaga vs. Xavier Prediction

    This one worked out quite well for the Zags. Many thought Arizona would ultimately be the team to end Gonzaga’s March Madness run, but now the Wildcats are out of it. That means the Bulldogs will reach their first Final Four when they get past Xavier in the Elite Eight. Karnowski will get some early touches down low and set the tone with some hard-earned points in the paint. Mathews will knock down some threes to help extend Gonzaga’s lead. Bluiett will get 20-plus points, but it will be an inefficient shooting night for him. The Zags will see their double-digit lead dwindle in the second half but will hang on for the win.

    Gonzaga vs. Xavier Score Prediction: Gonzaga 75, Xavier 66

    MORE: Complete NCAA Tournament Bracket, Previews, Predictions


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