Davidson Wildcats vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs -8.5
Championship Game: Old Spice Classic (Orlando, FL)
The mid-major trend of excellence continues down in Orlando, Florida, as two teams from non-power leagues meet up in the championship game in a matchup of two of the more recent March Cinderella darlings. Steph Curry and Adam Morrison are long gone, but both of these programs have plenty of talent and as are well coached as any squad in the country.
Gonzaga certainly has the advantage in the raw talent department. Elias Harris is a future pro (some say NBA, I think overseas, but a pro nonetheless), and Kevin Pangos can put up points with any small guard in the country. Both of them will compete with Matthew Delevadova of St. Mary’s for WCC Player of the Year honors. Gonzaga is off to a perfect 5-0 start, but to be fair a few of their wins aren’t nearly as good as the names indicate. West Virginia is way down this year, and Oklahoma is in year three of the post-Blake Griffin swoon. However, their opening round win over Clemson is a reasonable one, as the Tigers appear to be better than most preseason projections.
Davidson will not be the most athletic team they have faced, in fact all three of the abovementioned “Power Conference” teams probably have better athletes. But this Davidson team might be the best team Gonzaga has faced thus far. They enter at just 3-2, a mixed bag of good wins, a quality loss (@ New Mexico) and a surprising one to Wisconsin Green Bay. I think this is a tourney team, as no one should beat them in the SoCon, however, whether or not they have any chance at an at-large selection should they need it might come down to what they do tonight. Teams from the Southern Conference don’t get at-large tourney bids. In fact, four years ago, even with a loaded schedule and a high-profile Steph Curry they were summarily dismissed and relegated to the NIT when they lost in their conference tournament. They still have a matchup at Duke (which they have no chance of winning) and a game against Drexel, but tonight really represents their only chance to notch a quality non-conference win to pair with the West Virginia win (which may or may not be worth much come March).
I like Davidson to give a great effort, but at the end of the day, this Gonzaga team is just a lot better then them position by position, and especially on the bench. Mark Few’s team appears to be one of the most cohesive they’ve had in quite a while. Pangos is distributed the ball well, and they have gotten away from some of the point guard gunnin’ it mentality that seemed to slow this team’s overall success.
I don’t think we’ll win this pick without a little anxiety along the way, but by the time the final horn sounds I expect the Zags to be up by double digits. Give me Gonzaga winning the Old Spice Classic, laying the points.
Free Pick: Gonzaga Bulldogs -8.5