Utah & 'Over' 139 Our Sharp Tournament Pick Against Gonzaga

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 18, 2016 6:42 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 18, 2016 6:42 PM UTC

The final Midwest Region game in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday features No. 11 Gonzaga against No. 3 Utah for a trip to Chicago and a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.

Bulldogs Ride Two Players Hard
Gonzaga (27-7) would almost surely be in the NIT right now if not for beating Saint Mary's 88-82 in the West Coast Conference Tournament title game after losing to the Gaels twice during the regular season. The Zags were somewhat surprisingly 2-point favorites Thursday against No. 6 Seton Hall, who closed the regular season playing as well as anyone in the nation and won the Big East Tournament. But Gonzaga was clearly the better team in a 68-52 victory. It led for more than 37 minutes of the game and were by double-digits for most of the second half.

The Bulldogs have two future NBA players on their roster in Kyle Wiltjer, a former top Kentucky recruit, and Domantas Sabonis, the son of former NBA player and Russian basketball legend Arvydas Sabonis (probably the best player ever from that country). Wiltjer was a bit off against Seton Hall, shooting just 5-for-14 for 13 points, well below his 20.5 ppg average. But Sabonis was spectacular with 21 points, 16 rebounds and four assists. He's a double-double machine, averaging 17.5 points and 11.7 rebounds on the season. Meanwhile, Seton Hall star Isaiah Whitehead, the Big East Tournament MVP, was a ghastly 4-for-24 from the field (0-for-10 from 3-point range) for just 10 points.

That win really summed up what Gonzaga is this season: it has two stars and not much else. No other Zag player scored more than nine points. Gonzaga can beat any other team that has just one or two very good players but it will  have trouble against deep clubs because the Bulldogs aren't. Just one bench player got more than five minutes against Seton Hall.

It's the eighth straight year that Gonzaga has reached the Round of 32. Last year it beat Iowa by 19 in that round. The Zags are 16-15-1 against the spread on NCAA tournament odds this season and 16-16 'over/under.'


Utes Climb On Poeltl's Back
Some were worried how Utah (27-8) would respond to an 88-57 destruction to Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament final, but the Utes showed no ill effects from that in a fairly easy 80-69 win over No. 14 Fresno State, the Mountain West Tournament champion, on Thursday. A 19-2 second-half run after FSU took its first lead of the game was the difference. Utah's three best players, Jakob Poeltl, Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge, combined for 23 of Utah's final 33 points.

Poeltl is a soon-to-be NBA lottery pick who as an All-American and Pac-12 Player of the Year. He had 16 points and 18 rebounds. Taylor had 16 points and six assists, while Loveridge had 16 points and three steals. Lorenzo Bonam led the team with 17 points. Utah crushed Fresno on the boards, 38-15; the Utes had as many offensive boards as Fresno had total.

If there was one issue with that win, it was Utah's 20 turnovers as they have been a problem this season. Utah had only one player who had more assists than turnovers in the game. Fresno State had 28 points off turnovers, including six dunks. Utah's dominance on the boards and shooting 54 percent from the field overcame that. But you can't turn it over 20 times and continue to win.

The Utes and Bulldogs haven't played since 2008. Utah is 17-15-1 ATS on NCAA tournament picks this season and 19-13-1 O/U.


Common Opponents
As is often the case, Gonzaga played a  handful of Pac-12 teams this season. The Zags beat Washington 80-64 on Nov. 25 in a Bahamas holiday tournament. Gonzaga won at Washington State, the Pac-12's worst team, just 69-60 on Dec. 2. On Dec. 5, Gonzaga hosted No. 19 Arizona and lost 68-63. Does that defeat look worse following Arizona's one-sided loss to Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday? On Dec. 12, Gonzaga lost at home to UCLA 71-66; the Bruins were one of the nation's biggest disappointments this season. So clearly that's a mixed bag of results for the Zags.

Utah swept Washington this season: 80-75 in overtime on Jan. 24 in Seattle and 90-82 on Feb. 10 in Salt Lake City. The Utes destroyed Washington State twice, 92-71 on the road and 88-47 at home. Utah hosted No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 27 and won 70-64. And finally, the Utes won at UCLA 75-73 on Feb. 18.


Final Analysis
Fantastic matchup between two of the five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award for the nation's best center here in Sabonis (Lithuania) and Poeltl (Austria). That could be a wash, but Utah is deeper. Go Utes and 'over.' The Bulldogs are 1-7-1 ATS in their last nine non-conference games. The Utes are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 games. The 'over' is 8-1 in Utah's past nine non-conference games. 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Utah PK & Over 139
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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