As expected — well, if you didn’t predict any upsets in the top half of the West, that is — the No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs will take on the No. 4 seed West Virginia Mountaineers in the Sweet 16.
The Bulldogs made it this far in the 2017 NCAA tournament by knocking off No. 16 seed South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the first round and No. 8 seed Northwestern Wildcats in the second round. As for the Mountaineers, a team that might hold a higher seed than Gonzaga but is still ranked as high as No. 12 in the major polls, they did some surviving and advancing against No. 13 Bucknell Bison and No. 5 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The winner of this contest will go on to play the winner of the Xavier vs. Arizona matchup.
While the first and second rounds of the dance tend to hold the most madness (because that’s when the Cinderellas start to emerge), the Sweet 16 and beyond is all about the best matchups of the season, and of course, the tournament. Gonzaga vs. West Virginia has “must-watch” written all over it, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the winner of this March Madness showdown making a run to the Final Four.
Before the Sweet 16 festivities get underway, let’s unleash some bold predictions for this 2017 NCAA tournament clash.
Nigel Williams-Goss Drops Back-To-Back 20-Point Performances
Nigel Williams-Goss is a top player in college basketball — just in case you haven’t heard already. Regarding this season, the Bulldog is putting up 16.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. Williams-Goss is also coming off of a 20-point outing against Northwestern after dropping just nine points in the first round.
“Press Virginia” might only be allowing 66.8 points per contest, but look for one of the best players in the tournament — which is Williams-Goss, of course — to score another 20 (or more) points in the Sweet 16. Will it be enough for the Zags to move on, however?
Jevon Carter Makes It Rain, Drains Six Shots From Behind The Arc
Jevon Carter is shooting 38.6 percent from the three-point line this season, and he is also coming off of a performance in which he dropped four threes all over Notre Dame.
In bold prediction fashion (Carter has yet to drain six shots from behind the arc this season), look for the Mountaineer to make it rain from deep when West Virginia and Gonzaga take the court against one another, which will, of course, result in six threes (perhaps more) for Carter.
For all it’s worth, Carter had 11 points against Bucknell and 24 against the Fighting Irish.
West Virginia Pulls Off The Upset, Advances To The Elite Eight
West Virginia over Gonzaga isn’t as big of an upset as some folks might think. Yes, the Bulldogs captured a No. 1 seed, and a No. 1 seed going down against a non-No. 1 seed in the Big Dance tends to have “upset” written all over it, but the Mountaineers are the real deal.
Here’s the proof: During the regular season, West Virginia knocked off the the Virginia Cavaliers when they were ranked No. 6 in the country, Baylor when it was ranked No. 1, Kansas when it was ranked No. 2, and Iowa State when it was ranked No. 24.
ESPN‘s Eamonn Brennan even has Bob Huggins’ squad down as the ninth-best team in the 2017 NCAA tournament. Of course, he also has Gonzaga down as the second-best team.
The Bulldogs might be a No. 1 seed, and they might only have one loss this season, and they might be stacked with talent, and many people might think it is their time to make a run to the Final Four, but the NCAA tournament committee did not do the Bulldogs any favors by throwing West Virginia in their path.
The Mountaineers will do the only thing that matters in the Sweet 16, and that is surviving and advancing.
[Featured Image by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images]