Sweet 16 – West Regional

South Regional

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West Regional
School Odds to win Region Odds to win Tournament
Gonzaga 7/5 15/2
Michigan 17/10 10/1
Texas A&M 4/1 25/1
Florida State 15/2 50/1

Games played at Staples Center from Los Angeles, CA

No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M (TBS, 7:35 p.m. ET)
Opening Odds: Wolverines -3 ½, Total 134

A week ago Michigan played in the last game to tip off Thursday night and it was difficult to watch. After falling behind 10-0 to start the game, the Wolverines pulled out the win and narrow cover in a contest that featured Montana and Michigan making just eight of 31 3-point shots and collectively shooting below 38 percent from the floor.

Junior Moritz Wagner netted just five points and while Kentucky-transfer Charles Matthews led the team with 20 points but he also had five turnovers. The long layoff after winning the Big Ten tournament was cited as factor with some rust clearly showing for a team that made a great late season run to elevate itself to being considered a serious Final Four threat.

Michigan’s late night victory over Houston in the Round of 32 Saturday was one of the best games of the tournament with neither team leading by more than six points in the entire game. Houston led by two in the final seconds but missed a pair of free throws that could have sealed the game and freshman reserve Jordan Poole sunk a very difficult long-range 3-point shot at the buzzer for the improbable win.

Michigan has now won 11 straight games to erase an uneven start to the season and in that run they now have five wins over top 30 caliber teams. The Wolverines have the best defensive efficiency rating that a John Beilein squad has ever had and Michigan has some of the trademarks of a championship contender, committing very few turnovers or fouls while shooting at a high percentage.

Michigan does have a very poor free throw percentage for the season at below 66 percent with Matthews the main culprit in that regard as a 56 percent free throw shooter on the season despite leading the team in attempts and he has made 10 of 16 so far in two tournament contests.

A Sweet 16 showdown with North Carolina was expected this week for Michigan but the 2017 tournament champions were blown out Sunday in Charlotte against Texas A&M. The Aggies outscored the Tar Heels 25-8 in the final 10 minutes of the first half and pulled ahead by 24 points early in the second half. Texas A&M held North Carolina to just 33 percent shooting while dominating the rebounding 50-36 in a stunning blowout for the underdog.

Texas A&M barely slipped by in a tight Round of 64 matchup with Providence and the Aggies had an up-and-down season on the whole currently bookmarked by a pair of a elite wins as they defeated West Virginia by 23 in the season opener in Germany.

The Aggies started the season 11-1 but then lost five straight games to open the SEC season. Mid-season injuries and suspensions disrupted the lineup in January but the Aggies again had a three-game slide in February and failed to win a game in the SEC Tournament as a Sweet 16 run did not look likely for this group.

Like Michigan, Texas A&M has elite defensive numbers with top 20 national rankings in defensive field goal rates all over the floor. Massive size is a big factor in the defensive numbers with one of the tallest starting five units in the nation featuring four starters 6’9” or taller around 6’4” Admon Gilder who is a 40 percent 3-point shooter.

The Aggies have more potential on offense than the numbers might suggest as along with Gilder, D.J. Hogg is a 38 percent 3-point shooter and now injured Duane Wilson dragged down the outside shooting numbers hitting at just a 29 percent clip. Freshman T. J. Starks scored 21 Sunday against North Carolina off the bench and he has become the team’s go-to option in recent games.

Billy Kennedy had the Aggies in the Sweet 16 two years ago, losing 77-63 to Oklahoma while Michigan lost in a thrilling 69-68 result against Oregon last season in the Sweet 16. A closely-lined Elite Eight matchup will await the victor with the West region champion likely to be the favorite in the national semifinal matchup given all the chaos in the South region.

Popular Michigan has been a very strong ATS team this season at 22-12-1 and the short favorite price will be alluring for the common player to back a team with late season momentum. Michigan has covered in nine of the games on the current 11-game winning streak. The Aggies are a losing ATS team on the season but they have a winning ATS mark on the road this season and when playing as an underdog.

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State (TBS, 10:05 p.m. ET)
Opening Odds: Bulldogs -5, Total 155

Gonzaga has sights on returning to the Final Four after last season’s NCAA Tournament breakthrough, eventually losing in the championship game against North Carolina. This year’s team didn’t match the amazing regular season put together last year but the Bulldogs are a favorite to advance to the Elite 8, catching a break in the bracket with #1 seed Xavier eliminated.

Gonzaga was far from dominant in two wins in Boise, escaping 68-64 against UNC-Greensboro Thursday afternoon as they saw a double-digit lead slip away to fall behind by two with just over a minute remaining. The same scenario played out in Saturday’s win over Ohio State as a 15-0 start to the game was erased and Gonzaga trailed by five with six minutes to go before pulling out a narrow win to advance.

Gonzaga has struggled with its outside shooting in the tournament so far hitting 31 percent from 3-point range despite being an over 37 percent 3-point shooting team on the season. Killian Tillie hasn’t made a 3-point shot in the tournament after connecting on 13 of 14 3-point attempts in three convincing WCC tournament wins. Gonzaga has also missed 24 free throws in two games to allow the underdogs the opportunity to get back into the games.

Florida State started the season 9-0 looking like a national force though the early season schedule was light other than producing a win at Florida. The Seminoles wound up only 9-9 in ACC play, featuring great offensive numbers but looking like one of the worst defensive teams in the conference. The nine-win mark in conference play also featured three overtime wins as the Seminoles weren’t far from slipping onto the tournament bubble.

Many saw Missouri as a sleeper in the Big Dance but in the 8/9 draw Florida State won easily in Nashville, with standout defensive numbers holding Missouri to only 16 made field goals and creating 16 turnovers. Florida State fell behind by 12 in the final 10 minutes against Xavier but they hit big shots down the stretch to pull out the upset. Florida State forced 18 Xavier turnovers and again displayed a much better defense than the ACC numbers might suggest.

Florida State has great depth with nine players posting double-digit minutes on Sunday and senior Braian Angola is generally the only player on the court nearly the entire game. In contrast Gonzaga has a rather tight seven-man rotation in most games. Freshman Zach Norvell has starred for Gonzaga in the tournament with 43 points but inside scoring opportunities might be limited against the size and length of Florida State.

These teams have two of the better defensive field goal rates in the nation on 2-point attempts as this game could come down to who hits the outside shots and free throws, which have been inconsistent areas of late for both teams. The west coast location and late night time slot is favorable for Gonzaga but another tight game certainly seems possible.

Last season Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 win over West Virginia required a late comeback with the Bulldogs down three in the final two minutes. Florida State’s last Sweet 16 game featured heartbreak in the 2011 Tournament with a 72-71 loss to VCU in overtime. These teams met in the Round of 64 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament with Gonzaga winning 67-60 in Buffalo in an 8/9 game.

Florida State is 17-13-1 ATS on the season including going 16-10 ATS vs. winning teams. Frequently playing as a heavy favorite in the WCC, Gonzaga wound up with a losing ATS mark on the season but the Bulldogs are 6-2 ATS when favored by fewer than 10 points.