Bob Huggins’ WVU basketball program is in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons. With a No. 1 seed in their path yet again, the Mountaineers are expecting a different outcome this time around.
The 2014-15 opponent that sent the ‘Eers home? John Calipari’s 38-1 Kentucky Wildcats, a roster littered with NBA-talent; Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles; the list continues.
Gonzaga may have a similar record at 34-1, but they are nowhere near as talented as that Kentucky team, nor have they seen a team like this year’s Press Virginia.
In their first round game, Gonzaga toppled 16-seed North Dakota State, 66-46. Jordan Mathews paced the Bulldogs with 16 points, but three teammates scored in double-figures to even things out. They combined to shoot 39.7 percent from the floor (26.7 percent from three), but only committed nine turnovers as a team.
Gonzaga was the beneficiary of multiple late-game whistles in their second round match-up with No. 8 seed Northwestern. A missed basket-interference violation followed by a technical foul on the coach for yelling at the official who missed the call turned Northwestern’s realistic comeback into a pipe-dream. The Bulldogs escaped the Wildcats 79-73, in a game they led at the half by 18; their largest lead was 22. They shot 44 percent from the field in this game, but continued to struggle from three, only making 4-of-16 attempts. The Bulldogs saw their turnovers rise to 14 in the second round.
Gonzaga Bulldogs: Players To Watch
Senior Jordan Mathews | Guard, No. 4: Mathews only averaged 10.8 points per game during the season, but has upped his scoring in the tournament with 16- and 14-point performances. He’s averaging six rebounds in the tournament and has only committed one turnover, a number WVU will need to inflate for a successful outcome.
More from Hail WV
- Every West Virginia potential March Madness venue in 2023 NCAA Tournament
- West Virginia March Madness Schedule: When do the Mountaineers play next? (Updated March 12)
- West Virginia vs. Kansas prediction and odds for Saturday, February 25 (Take Mountaineers as underdogs)
- WVU Football Recruiting: Mountaineers make Malik Hartford’s short list
- Previewing WVU basketball against Oklahoma State
Senior Przemek Karnowski | Center, No. 24: The 7’1″, 300 lbs. big-man from Poland does an excellent job at clogging up whatever area of the court he’s on. He’s managed 19 points while averaging 18 minutes per game in the tournament. The Bulldogs like to dump the ball to Karnowski in the post, taking advantage of his massive size. With the poor three-point shooting surrounding him, a simple double-team should force kick-outs and three-point attempts. If Gonzaga continues this woeful shooting from deep, expect WVU to pack the paint and force the ‘Zags to make a few.
Freshman Zach Collins | Forward, No. 32: Collins comes off the bench for the Bulldogs, but is a match-up nightmare at 7-foot tall. He’s combined for 24 points and seven blocks in the tournament, a valuable asset to have waiting around on the pine. Look for his length and outside shooting to be a factor against the Mountaineers.
Junior Nigel Williams-Goss | Guard, No. 5: Goss received a number of accolades playing for the University of Washington, but transferred to Gonzaga and reallly took off. It’s probably due to the inferior competition, but we’ll just act like the WCC and the Pac-12 are equals. Goss is shooting 10-of-32 in the tournament,including 1-of-7 from three.
After beating the fight out of the Irish in the round of 32, the Mountaineers are hitting their stride at just the right time. Jevon Carter’s jump shot continues to fall, as the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year turns opponents over at the other end. Big 12 6th Man of the Year Tarik Phillip is playing the most-confident basketball of his Mountaineer career. Esa Ahmad is shooting the ball well, too; 7-of-15 from the field in the tournament, 11-for-13 from the free-throw line. And then there’s Nathan Adrian, Mr. “I’m doing what I do, the way I’ve always done it, and the way I’ll always do it.” Maybe that was Cosmo Kramer, I could have them confused, but Adrian continues to do all the little things for the Mountaineers. No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 4 West Virginia will play Thursday at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA. Tip-off time has yet to be announced.