Gonzaga and Texas Tech both made statements Thursday. The No. 1 seed Bulldogs exacted revenge on No. 4 Florida State for a loss in last year’s West Regional semifinal, pulling away for a 72-58 victory. In the late game, the 3rd-seeded Red Raiders stifled No. 2 Michigan 63-44 in a battle between the nation’s top-2 defenses.
They face off Saturday in the Elite 8 in Anaheim (Calif.), but both didn’t get this far to rest on laurels. The Zags are looking to return to the national championship game for another chance at the program’s first national title. Texas Tech is fighting for its first-ever Final Four bid a year after bowing out to national champion Villanova in the same stage.
It’s the classic battle between offense and defense. Mark Few and the Zags boast the nation’s No. 1 efficiency offense per Ken Pomeroy, while Chris Beard’s group from Lubbock is No. 1 in defense.
The winner has to wait for the East Regional to sort itself out. The oppotunities include Zion Williamson and No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 Virginia Tech. Both teams met the Blue Devils, with the Zags winning in the Maui Invitational and the Red Raiders losing in Madison Square Garden in December.
Let’s take a look at the betting preview.
Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech Preview
*Note: Betting info and updated lines courtesy of OddsShark
- Gonzaga Bulldogs (-4) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders on March 30 (6:09 p.m. EST, CBS)
- Over/Under: 137
The only projected injury for Saturday is Texas Tech forward Khavon Moore, who suffered a season-ending leg injury back in February. Seeing as the Red Raiders have streaked into the Elite 8 without him, they have adjusted well enough in his absence.
One of the bigger matchups (literally and figuratively) on Saturday will be Gonzaga’s slew of forward and centers trying to crack defensive-mined center Tariq Owens. Bulldogs forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke both stand 6-foot-8 and shoot above 60 percent inside the arc.
Clarke, in particular, is No. 8 nationally in 2-point percentage at 70 percent (on 349 attempts). Owens, meanwhile, is a 6-foot-10, 205-pounder that ranks No. 11 nationally in block rate. He’s already swatted 7 shots so far in March Madness.
He is the centerpiece of the nation’s No. 2 effective field goal defense. It just held Michigan to just 32 percent from the field, including a paltry 1-of-19 from behind the arc.
Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech Prediction & Pick
The Zags offense may be in trouble this weekend. It scored under a point per possession Thursday versus Florida State, a top-10 defense with a slew of lengthy defenders that disrupt shots around the rim. Texas Tech is on another level entirely, as it ties for first with 2015 Kentucky for most efficient defense since 2002.
The Red Raiders aren’t just about offense, though. Guard Jarrett Culver is a potential top-5 NBA Draft pick, and just came off a 22-point night against the Wolverines. Beard trots out 3-point gunners in Davide Moretti and Matt Mooney, both who drain over 38 percent from deep.
Few’s defense is no slouch, either. It ranks No. 13 nationally, allowing just 30 percent from 3. Guards Zach Norvell and Josh Perkins are long-limbed and run shooters of the perimeter.
Both are also well-rounded offensive players, both scoring in double-digits versus the Seminoles.
Ultimately, Texas Tech’s defense is playing on an absurd level at this point in the year, and it strangles team’s wills. If the Zags allow this to be a low-possession game, they’ll be hard-pressed to get into a rhythm.
Chris Beard talked in Anaheim about his team “fearing no one.” Expect it to keep playing like it and earn a spot in Minneapolis next weekend.
Prediction: Texas Tech 68, Gonzaga 55
Pick: Texas Tech +4