Xavier Musketeers versus Gonzaga Bulldogs March Madness preview
Date: Saturday, 25th March
Place: SAP Center – San Jose, CA
March madness odds:
Xavier +8 (-110) +315
Gonzaga -8 (-110) -380
How they got here
The Zags defeated West Virginia 61-58 in the West regional semifinals on Thursday to advance to their third Elite 8 and the second in three years. Nigel Williams-Goss had 13 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, Przemek Karnowski added 13 points and two assists, and Jordan Mathew scored another 13 points, including the game-winning three-point shot. The Musketeers continue to defy March madness odds; this time they knocked Arizona off the NCAA tournament 73-71 for their third Elite 8 appearance and the first since 2008. Trevon Bluiett had 25 points – 18 in the first half – and JP Macura added seven rebounds and five assists. Xavier’s defense held Lauri Markkanen to nine points on 3 of 9 shooting.
The Bulldogs and the Musketeers have played each other four times in their history. Xavier won 87-82 on December 23rd, 1960. Gonzaga has won the last three straight meetings; 79-75 in 2006, 64-54 in 2010, and 72-65 in 2011.
Players to watch
Trevon Bluiett has scored 20 or more points in four of his last five games, and is averaging 18.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, and shooting 44.5% from the field and 37.7% from the three-point line. After scoring 20+ points in all three WCC tournament games, Nigel Williams-Goss has had a more subdued performance in the NCAA tourney, sharing more of the load with Mathews and Karnowski.
March madness betting trends
Xavier has won six of its last seven games and has covered the spread in its last five games. Gonzaga has won its last five games in a row and is 1-3-1 against the spread in the last five games. Both teams have tended to go under the total in their most recent games.
What to expect
In spite of Gonzaga’s solid perimeter defense, Bluiett may be able to have another 20-plus point game. It will matter little if Williams-Goss doesn’t explode with a 20-point performance of his own, because Karnowski and Mathews will be there to pick up the slack; the former inside the paint and the latter from beyond the arc.
This just in
According to Sports Illustrated, when the then-No. 2 seed Xavier lost No. 7 Wisconsin in the second round of the 2016 march madness, head coach Chris Mack called it “the worst locker room I’ve ever been in.” Oh, but what a difference a year makes; the Musketeers are already practicing cutting nets down.
The Zags have the March madness odds on their side – but so did Arizona for that matter. Does Xavier have another March madness betting upset up their collective sleeve. The Musks’ luck has to run out at some point, and all signs point to Gonzaga reaching the Final 4 for the first time in program history. On the other hand, Xavier has, in the immortal words of Woody Harrelson, “G-dd-mn it, Bill [expletive deleted] Murray.”