West Region March Madness Picks: No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Gonzaga

Jason Lake

Sunday, March 19, 2017 8:03 PM UTC

Sunday, Mar. 19, 2017 8:03 PM UTC

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have made it to the Sweet Sixteen without beating the NCAAB odds. That might not cut it Thursday when they meet the West Virginia Mountaineers.

  West Virginia vs Gonzaga

West Region, Sweet Sixteen - Thursday, March 23rd


It’s obvious the Gonzaga Bulldogs (34-1 SU, 22-9-1 ATS) are a damn fine basketball team. But now that they’re 0-2 ATS at March Madness, maybe they’re not quite as good as the market thinks. After a monster first half, the No.1 seed in the West Region let the No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats crawl back within five points before winning 79-73; we had the ‘Zags as 10.5-point favorites in this matchup.

On the good foot, we also had the No. 4 West Virginia Mountaineers (28-8 SU, 14-16-1 ATS) as 3-point faves against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and that worked out nicely with the WVU prevailing 83-71. The Mountaineers are 3-point puppies on the NCAA basketball odds board for Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup with Gonzaga. It’s really tempting to dump the ‘Zags and put our money on the underdogs.

The Part With the Math

But then you have these pesky hoop nerds with their fancy stats. FiveThirtyEight project Gonzaga as a 66-percent favorite, or around –5 according to Wizard of Odds. However, Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency numbers have Gonzaga – the top team in Division I – rated a little more than five points better per 100 possessions than West Virginia, whom he has ranked fourth overall. That’s close to 3.5 points over the 70 possessions each team gets in per game on average.

"Northwestern Kid" wins the Internet during Wildcats' loss to Gonzaga 

— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) March 19, 2017

Either way, the numbers say Gonzaga has at least some betting value for your college basketball picks. Sure, they honked the first two games ATS, but they were double-digit favorites both times. Spreads get harder to cover as they get bigger. That’s just science. Even though West Virginia may be somewhat undervalued in general at this point in the season, we’ll go with a slight lean toward Gonzaga here at the home office.


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