NCAA Tournament Picks: Gonzaga Expected To Cover ATS In Low-Scoring Game vs. Syracuse

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 1:22 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 22, 2016 1:22 PM UTC

We are guaranteed to have one double-digit seed reach the Elite Eight. Gonzaga faces Syracuse on Friday night in the Midwest Region Sweet 16. See our NCAA Tournament Picks.

Sabonis Dominates Utes
Gonzaga (28-7) faced Utah in the Round of 32 on Saturday and that game was a pick'em when I previewed it. I took the Utes and that didn't work out tell well as the Zags won 82-59 -- I was right on going 'over' the total of 139.5. The 23-point win tied the third-largest by a team seeded 11th or lower since the field expanded to 64 teams.

The Bulldogs have two great players who would start on any team in the country in senior forward Kyle Wiltjer and sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis, who are both likely to be  NBA first-round picks this summer if Sabonis leaves school as expected. Sabonis vastly outplayed Utah All-American center and Pac-12 Player of the Year Jakob Poeltl in the victory. Sabonis, who is more of a forward than center, was 8-for-12 from the field for 19 points to go with 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Poeltl had maybe his worst game of the season with just five points and four rebounds. That's downright shocking.

Wiltjer also played well, hitting 7-for-10 from the field (3-for-4 from long range) for 17 points. He added three rebounds and three steals. In a rarity, neither player led the team in scoring. That honor went to guard Eric McClellan, the West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He had 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting. The Zags  shot 55.7 percent as a team. You won't lose very many games shooting that well. Gonzaga led wire-to-wire and looked even better than it did in beating Big East Tournament champion Seton Hall by 16 in the first round.

The Zags actually underachieved a bit in the regular season considering they were ranked No. 9 nationally in the preseason Associated Press Top 25. That was higher than every other school in the Midwest Region other than Virginia and Iowa State. The top-seeded Cavs play the No. 4 Cyclones in Friday's other Midwest game.

If you are looking for one Gonzaga weakness, it's forcing turnovers. It forces them on just 14.6 percent of opponent possessions. That's No. 331 nationally. They did win the turnover battle vs. Utah but not against Seton Hall.

This is Gonzaga's second straight season in the Sweet 16. Last year as a No. 2 seed it beat No. 11 UCLA 74-62 in this round. The Zags are +300 at Bovada sportsbooks to win the Midwest Region. they are 18-15 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds this season and 17-16 'over/under.'


Orange Most Unlikely ACC Team Left
Syracuse (21-13) was probably the second-most controversial at-large choice for this NCAA Tournament. But the Orange have looked like they belong. They took out No. 7 Dayton 70-51 on Friday. SU caught a huge break that day as well as No. 15 Middle Tennessee pulled a shocking upset of No. 2 Michigan State. So instead of having to face the national championship betting favorite Spartans in Sunday's Round of 32, the Orange got Middle Tennessee.

I previewed that game here and recommended Syracuse -6 and 'under' of 132. The Orange rolled to a 75-50 victory. The Blue Raiders just couldn't solve that 2-3 zone, as their points total was their lowest of the season and their 29.7 percent shooting was also their worst. It was just a 40-39 Syracuse lead with 16:02 left, but then 10 game minutes later it was 61-41 as Middle Tennessee missed 15 of its next 16 shots. Michael Gbinje led Syracuse with 23 points, hitting 10-for-14 from the field. Freshman Tyler Lydon scored 14 points, had seven rebounds and blocked a career-high six shots off the bench.

It's the 18th Sweet 16 appearance for SU under Jim Boeheim. Those are the second-most all-time, with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski leading with 23. The Orange are one of a record six ACC teams still standing. The only ACC team to lose so far is Pittsburgh, which beat Syracuse in the ACC Tournament opener for both, leading many to think Syracuse would miss the Big Dance. SU is 17-15-1 ATS on NCAA basketball picks this season and 17-16 O/U. Syracuse is +700 to win the Midwest Region.

Gonzaga and Syracuse last played in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament in Buffalo. The top-seeded Orange won easily, 87-65.


Common Opponents
Gonzaga and Syracuse both played in a Thanksgiving tournament, the Battle 4 Atlantis, in the Bahamas. The Zags lost 62-61 to Texas A&M and then beat Connecticut 73-70 in the third-place game. Syracuse beat Connecticut 79-76 and then A&M 74-67 in the championship game. It was Syracuse's first early season tournament title since the Orange won the 2013 Maui Invitational. Like the Zags, who have the two best players on the court, and 'under'  here. Gonzaga is 7-0 ATS in its past seven games. The 'under' is 11-3 in its past 14 non-conference games. The 'under' is 6-1 in Syracuse's past seven NCAA Tournament games.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Gonzaga -4.5 and 'Under'
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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