#7 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. #2 Ohio State Buckeyes -7.5
Ohio State wasn’t really tested much in their opener, as they cruised in their #2/#15 matchup. However Gonzaga, in a game many thought they’d lose (including yours truly) looked absolutely amazing in their complete dismantling of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Bobby Huggins won’t even need a second track suit for his suitcase, as the Zags sent them right back down the road to Morgantown after running them right out of Pittsburgh. Now, they’ll have to deal with another semi-local fan base that travels well as Buckeye nation makes the short drive north from Columbus to root on Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, William Buford and the deep and talented Buckeyes.
On paper, I still think Ohio State is the third best team in the nation. No one other than Kentucky and North Carolina has the blend of perimeter shooting, defense, an interior post presence experience and slashing, athletic wings that Ohio State brings to the party. Interestingly enough though, if I had to pick a team from outside the national radar that did fit that profile, it’d be Gonzaga. With freshman Kevin Pangos, the Zags have a decent compliment to OSU’s Aaron Craft. With Robert Sacre, the Zags have a poor-man’s version of Jared Sullinger. And Elias Harris of Gonzaga and Ohio State’s William Buford are awfully similar players. If you dig deep into the individual matchups in the starting lineup, you come away feeling better and better about Gonzaga’s chances to keep it close.
However, I feel like we have been lured into this trap before. Gonzaga, so long the underdog and Cinderella darling has actually been somewhat of a tourney under-achiever ever since Adam Morrison was shedding tears during the final moments of a complete collapse against UCLA in 2006. It isn’t that they’ve embarrassed themselves in the dance, but it has been a long, long time since they actually out-performed their seed.
I think we can expect the same thing tomorrow. They looked great against West Virginia, but Ohio State is a whole different animal. Aaron Craft is a better on ball defender than Kevin Pangos has ever faced in his college career. He is going to have to work to catch the ball, pass the ball, set screens – for everything he wants to do on the court tomorrow night. I also expect Sullinger’s crafty post play to bait Sacre into some foul trouble; a situation that Gonzaga has no proper backup to alleviate.
This one could be interesting for a bit, but in the end, Ohio State is too talented and athletic for Gonzaga. I expect the Bucks to pull away and cruise to the Sweet 16 with a double-digit win.