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It’s time to sit down, research, and fill out your “perfect” bracket. WSN will provide previews for every game during the NCAA Tournament, including all 32 games in the first round. In this article, we preview the 3-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs and the 14-seeded Grand Canyon Antelopes.
The 3 seed in the opening round is 122-22 against 14 seeds. It last happened in 2021 when Abilene Christian defeated Texas in a thriller. The lower seed in this matchup wins just 15.3% of the time, but anything can happen in March.
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Gonzaga comes into the March Madness Tournament on a nine-game winning streak and are the winners of the West Coast Conference Championship.
The Bulldogs, though, enter their first-round game as a seed lower than 1 for the first time since 2019. And maybe since they didn’t get one of the top seeds in the Tournament, people might sleep on Gonzaga.
But don’t, because the Bulldogs can make a serious run at the title. They have had quality wins against Michigan State, Kentucky, Xavier, Alabama, and Saint Mary’s twice.
Gonzaga is led offensively by one of college basketball's best in forward, Drew Timme. They also supply a starting roster of three seniors, one junior, and one sophomore, adding that veteran experience to the tournament.
The Bulldogs finished the year with a 26-5 record and 14-2 in the WCC. They went 6-3 in Quad 1 games this year: losing to Texas, Baylor, and Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga also went 21-1 in Quads 2-4, losing against Loyola Marymount in January.
The number one offense in college basketball belongs to Gonzaga.
They scored 87.5 points per game on 52.9% shooting from the field this year, both best in the country. The Bulldogs also possess a 1.57 assist/turnover ratio, which ranks ninth nationally.
Gonzaga does so many things well on offense, and that starts with Timme’s contributions. The senior forward averaged career highs in points (20.9), rebounds (7.3), and assists (3.2). But the Bulldogs can hit teams with several key players.
Julian Strawther started as a role player in his freshman season. Now, he’s taken that next step in his junior year.
Strawther scored a career-high 40 points on Jan 28, and since then, he’s followed that up with games of 28, 28, and 26 points in Feb. He averaged 15.1 points on the year and is getting hot at the right time.
Grand Canyon last made the NCAA Tournament in 2021 as a 15 seed. Now, they enter as a 14-seed looking to make noise.
The Antelopes struggled a bit in the middle part of the season in the Western Athletic Conference. At one point, they lost six of 11 games from mid-Jan to mid-Feb. But a strong end of the season and conference tournament secured their spot in the field of 64.
Grand Canyon’s end-of-season success was led by players going off. In three of the four WAC Tournament wins last week, a Lopes player scored 30-plus points.
The Lopes finished the year with a 24-11 record and a 10-7 finish in the WAC, good for the fifth seed in their conference. The only NCAA Tournament team that Grand Canyon played was Nevada, and they lost by double digits.
Grand Canyon puts up a fight every night, as the team ranks top 95 in the country in points scored (75.3) and points allowed (66.8).
Most of their scoring will come from guard Rayshon Harrison. The transfer from Presbyterian has averaged more than 17 points a game every season, and in 2022, he continued that with a career-high 17.7 points for Lopes.
Harrison has scored 29-plus points three times in March, and the Grand Canyon will need him to continue his stellar scoring.
Forward Gabe McGlothan, who averaged 12.8 points and 7.7 rebounds, can also help the Lopes in the scoring department. In the WAC Tournament against Seattle, McGlothan went off for a 35-point, 10-rebound performance.
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14 seeds have beaten 3 seeds just once over the last four NCAA Tournaments. But before that, it happened every year from 2013-2016. In fact, in 19 of the 36 years since the tournament expanded, the lower seed won this matchup.
But it’s going to be tough for Grand Canyon to overcome Gonzaga’s offensive prowess. The Bulldogs enter the game as a 15.5 favorite.
There’s not much that Grand Canyon does better than Gonzaga. Despite the Lopes giving up fewer points per game on the year, KenPom lists them as 196 in defensive efficiency. Gonzaga comes in as 76.
The Bulldogs are a talented offensive team, and the only way the Lopes win is if they hold them to under 71 points. This season when Gonzaga fails to reach that mark, they are 1-4. When they reach that mark, they are 27-1.
Gonzaga’s offense is run smoothly, and every player on the court plays unselfishly. So, it’s no easy task for the Lopes, especially against the number-one scoring offense in the tournament.
The Bulldogs are better at almost everything in this game except at the free throw line and in the rebounding department. But Gonzaga’s offense will be too much for Grand Canyon to stop, and they should cover the spread easily.
Location: Denver, Colorado @Ball Arena
Game Time & Date: 3/17 @7:35 ET
TV Network: TruTV
Streaming: TruTV app, March Madness App
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I am a huge sports fan; locally, many know me as the guy who does the PA for our high school football team on Friday nights. Having grown up in Michigan, I am a sports fan of all the Detroit teams, and at the college level, I love Michigan State sports.More info on Caleb Tallman
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