Florida State's Depth a Boon In Sweet 16 Clash with Gonzaga

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, March 20, 2018 1:40 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2018 1:40 PM UTC

Ninth-seeded Florida State squares off against three-seed Gonzaga in a West Region semifinal Thursday. The Seminoles’ depth and physical attack will serve well against the Bulldogs.

No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 4 GonzagaWest Region, Thursday, 10:07 p.m. ET, Los AngelesFree NCAAB Pick: Under 154Best Line Offered: Intertops

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Florida State is making its fifth appearance in the Sweet 16 and first since 2011. It beat No. 1 Xavier 75-70 to advance — the program’s first-ever victory over a No.1 seed in the tournament. The win avenged a second-round knockout by the Musketeers in last year’s dance. Xavier actually shot better from the floor, hitting 46.9 percent to Florida State’s 43.6 overall. The Seminoles won by forcing 18 turnovers, executing in the final two minutes, and locking down Musketeers leading scorer and NBA prospect Trevon Bluiett.

The senior guard was limited to eight points on 2-of-8 shooting. Bluiett dropped 29 in the 2017 tournament matchup. It was the first game in a month the Seminoles held an opponent’s top season scorer to less than 19 points. Xavier guard J.P. Macura led all points-getters with 17 as FSU improved to 11-2 SU and 8-3 ATS when restricting its opponent’s leading scorer in the game to fewer than 18 points.

Where FSU holds an advantage against Gonzaga is its depth. The Bulldogs play a seven-man rotation, while the Noles field 10 players averaging double digits in minutes. There are no standouts on offense, which makes planning to defend coach Leonard Hamilton’s squad even more difficult. Nine players post between 6.6 and 12.9 points a contest.

The Zags advanced to the Sweet 16 by topping Ohio State 90-84 as 4-point chalk. Freshman guard Zach Norvell Jr., one of five Bulldogs averaging double figures (12.7 ppg), torched the Buckeyes for a career-high 28 points. The offense, which ranks 12th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings, is averaging 82.9 points per game on 50.6-percent shooting in seven neutral-site contests this year. All but two have come against ranked opponents. The performances are making coach Mark Few bust out handstands, y'all:

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Wait for it...#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/8z5tel8dK0

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2018

FSU is relentless on defense, athletic, versatile, fiery, and battle-tested. Never mind the fact it is 11-10 SU in its last 21 games. Hamilton coaches his teams to thrive in tense, high-level games with their backs to the wall. Since 2006, FSU is 8-2 SU and ATS as a single-digit underdog on a neutral court, covering a 3.6 average line by 6.1 points per game. The defense shines in this spot, holding foes to 40.0 percent from the floor.

Win or lose here, Hamilton’s unit will play physical and relentlessly throughout. Wearing down the short-handed Bulldogs is the best way to keep them within reach. The game plan will help keep the final score well shy of the 154 game total on the college basketball odds board. The Zags have a history here, too. The "under" is 8-2 when facing off against ACC opponents on neutral hardwood in the last decade. Only one (North Carolina, 2009) from the powerhouse basketball conference has scored more than their projected total in the betting market. The combined score is coming up 11.8 points shy of a 147.1 average total in this situation. Don’t buck the trend. This will be a defensive effort first from both sides. Go with "under" 154 points with your NCAAB picks.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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