#4 UConn Huskies vs #3 Gonzaga Bulldogs (3/25 @ 8:49 PM EST)
Spread: UConn -2.0
Moneyline: UConn -132 / Gonzaga +112
Overview and Betting Info
The #4 UConn Huskies (28-8) will take on the #3 Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-5) in the West Region’s Elite 8 matchup. UConn finished fourth in the Big East while Gonzaga won the WCC regular season and tournament title. These teams did not meet in the regular season.
UConn is 24-11-1 against the spread and have covered eight of their last nine games. They have gone over the total 20 times but have been under in seven of their last ten games.
Gonzaga is 14-20-1 versus the spread but have failed to cover three of their last four games. They’ve gone over the total 21 times, including in seven of their last ten games.
#4 UConn Huskies
The Huskies have been playing some of the best basketball in the country since February, going 12-2 since that date. Those two losses were by less than four points and came against Marquette and Creighton. They have impressed in this tournament by blowing out a great mid-major in #13 Iona, an elite defense in #5 Saint Mary’s, and a #8 Arkansas team that had just beaten #1 Kansas. The Huskies have won each of those games by at least 15 points. They’ve done so with an outstanding balance of offense and defense, averaging 81.7 points scored and 57.7 points allowed. Gonzaga will present the best offensive challenge they have faced, so we will see how those numbers hold up.
UConn is one of the most balanced teams in the country. They were third in the Big East in scoring (78.7), fourth in field goal percentage (46.5%), third in three-point percentage (36.2%), third in field goal percentage (75.8%), and second in assists (17.5 APG). They’ve been just as good on defense, where they ranked first in opponent scoring (64.7 PPG), field goal percentage (40.6%), three-point percentage (30.3%), and blocks (4.8 BPG). They also ranked second in rebounds (39.0 RPG). One area of concern is turnovers, as they ranked ninth in the Big East with 13.0 per game.
The Huskies are led by a trio of stars in Adama Sanogo (17.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 61.0 FG%), Jordan Hawkins (16.1 PPG, 37.7 3P%), and Tristen Newton (9.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 37.7 3P%). Sanogo is the biggest reason for the success of the Huskies in the tournament, averaging 23.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and making 75% of his shots. He’s been one of their top players all season, but this tournament run has been on another level. Hawkins is one of their top three-point shooters who has made 48% of his attempts during the tournament. He doesn’t contribute in many other categories, but his ability to create open shots from deep makes him incredibly dangerous. Newton has also been great from three, though his volume is lower than Hawkins. He contributes more with assists and helps run this offense. The guard has shown he can score big points when needed, so look for him to shoot more if Hawkins is off.
#3 Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Bulldogs earned a three-seed thanks to an offense that is arguably the best in the country. They haven’t shown any signs of slowing down during the NCAA Tournament, averaging 81.6 points over their three games. That includes an impressive 79-point performance against a #2 UCLA team that was sixth in the country in opponent scoring (60.2 PPG). However, UCLA was down two starters which showed in the second half when the Bruins appeared to run out of gas. Drew Timme carried their scoring for most of the game before a few of his teammates could get going. It was enough to hold off a great effort from UCLA, but they can’t afford to do that against UConn. Still, their offense has been elite and will challenge this good UConn defense.
The Zags have been the best offensive team in the country this season. They lead the nation in offensive scoring (87.0 PPG) and field goal percentage (52.6%). They also rank eleventh in three-point percentage (38.6%) and sixteenth in assists (16.3 APG). Their defense has been a different story, ranking fifth in the WCC in opponent scoring (73.1 PPG), field goal percentage (34.9%), and three-point percentage (34.9%). They were third in rebounding (37.1 RPG), second in steals (7.4 SPG), and fourth in blocks (3.5 BPG). Turnovers are an issue for this team, as they have a -2.5 turnover differential.
Gonzaga is led by Drew Timme (21.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 62.3 FG%), Julian Strawther (15.4 PPG, 6.3 EPG, 42.1 3P%), and Anton Watson (11.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 60.6 FG%). Timme is why the Zags have succeeded and carried the team on his back on Thursday night. He scored almost half of the Zags’ points (36) and added 13 rebounds and two blocks. He was unstoppable down low, which helped the Zags overcome poor shooting from their other stars. Timme is now averaging 28.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks during the NCAA Tournament. Strawther is an elite three-point shooter who helped Gonzaga win by getting hot late to finish with 16 points and ten rebounds. He only made 33.3% of his shots from the field but 37.8% of his attempts from three (one of which sealed the win). Watson has scored less during the tournament, but his physical play has him averaging 10.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, and 1.7 steals. Keep an eye on Malachi Smith (8.7 PPG, 53.7 FG%), as he has 25 points over his last two games.
Free Pick: UConn -2
UConn has been the best team in the tournament since the opening game. They have dominated on both sides of the ball and cruised to victory in each game. They beat a good Iona team by 25, a great St. Mary’s team by 15, and a good Arkansas game by 23. Now, they will face a Gonzaga team that is great on offense but doesn’t have the same balance. While Timme will be near impossible to shut down, Adama Sanogo and 7’2″ center Donovan Clingan (7.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 66.0 FG%) will present his most formidable challenge yet. Clingan is averaging 2.3 blocks on the road this season and has the size to keep Timme away from the basket.
Gonzaga earned that win on Thursday, but they did it against a UCLA team without two starters. In the first half, only Timme was able to score. They were getting run off the court and forced into making bad turnovers. Things turned around in the second half, but we also saw the Bruins clearly run out of steam. That isn’t going to happen against the deep and balanced UConn team.
We’re taking UConn to get the win on Saturday and advance to the Final Four.