The No. 4 seed Florida State Seminoles (29-7) would not mind having a repeat of what happened when they met the No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs (32-3) during last year’s NCAA Tournament. They dominated throughout and won the regional semifinal, 75-60. Clearly, the Bulldogs were outclassed on that night. However, both teams have retooled in certain areas that should make this Sweet 16 matchup a potential classic.
4 Florida State Seminoles (29-7) vs. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (32-3)
When: Thursday March 28, 7:09 p.m. ET
Where: Anaheim, CA – Honda Center
Betting Line: Gonzaga -7.5 o/u 146.5
Despite the two squads meeting in the third round, this could have been a Final Four matchup. The Bulldogs were the No. 1 ranked team for a long while. They were also coasting through the season until the West Coast Conference finale when they were stymied by the Saint Mary’s Gaels. Instead of earning the overall No. 1 seed, the Bulldogs dropped a little bit on the seed line.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles earned the No. 4 seed in the ACC. They made it all the way to the ACC tournament final where they lost to the Duke Blue Devils. However, the Seminoles defeated No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers during a semifinal matchup. As a result, they will have faced three No. 1 seeds in the past 13 days.
Yet, they may have not faced the likes of forward Brandon Clarke this season. The junior forward decimated the Baylor Bears with 36 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks during the 83-71 win. Meanwhile, Corey Kispert poured in 16 points, while Josh Perkins scored 11 points. Leading scorer Rui Hachimura only scored six points in the round of 32. Therefore, he will look to assert himself on Thursday night. The Bulldogs claim to be a deep team, but they only received five points off the bench in the win.
The Seminoles will legitimately throw two teams at you during a game. For example, the Seminoles’ starters scored 43 points during the 90-62 win over the Murray State Racers. Meaning, the bench scored 47 points in the same game. However, this is not an aberration. This is how the Seminoles play. Therefore, you never know who is going to have an elite scoring day. But we do know a pair of players that need to come up big, probably.
Terance Mann is the all-purpose guard or forward that can create mismatches all over the floor. He produced 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in 30 minutes of action on Saturday. Mann is a senior and it seems like he’s not ready to go home. Meanwhile, Mfiondu Kabengele is their leading scorer off the bench. Once again, he led the way with 22 points and 7 rebounds in the win over Murray State.
The more impressive part of Florida State’s win was their dominance in the second half. They were up 16 at the break and outscored the Racers by 12 in the second half. There was no letdown. Maybe the focus is due to the loss of Phil Cofer. Once again, Cofer is not expected to be at the Sweet 16 game to be at his father’s funeral. Will the Seminoles continue to ride the emotion? Or, will they miss Cofer in a game that can throw countless big men into the fray?
The Seminoles have outscored two NCAA Tournament opponents by 35 points. The Bulldogs have won their games by a total of 40 points. Clearly, these two teams have been some of the most dominant so far. However, one is going home for good.
Surprisingly, the Bulldogs are 7.5 point favorites. After last season, they should have plenty of motivation to exact revenge against the Seminoles. However, revenge means nothing if you’re not playing well enough.
Pick: This game will come down to the guard play of Josh Perkins. How will he handle the pressure of the moment? He only averages two turnovers per game. However, Perkins has a tendency to do too much when the game gets close. You may not have noticed, but he struggled to finish off Baylor in round 2. He also struggled down the stretch in the loss to Saint Mary’s. Keep in mind, the Seminoles are known to have some late game turnovers in recent years. Can they stay focused enough to complete the upset in consecutive seasons?
Gonzaga 80 – Florida State 75