#11 Gonzaga (26-7) vs #6 Seton Hall (25-8)
When: Thursday, March 17th 2016
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Time: 9:57 ET | TV: truTV
The Seton Hall Pirates and Gonzaga Bulldogs will battle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Denver on Thursday. Despite losing star center Przemek Karnowski very early in the season and the graduation of very experienced guards Bell and Stockton, Gonzaga made the field of 68 for the 18th consecutive season – fourth longest current streak. The Zags went into the WCC Tournament as a clear bubble team and had already lost to fellow bubble member Saint Mary’s twice during the regular season. The two met in the championship game and Gonzaga came out victorious and the Gaels were left out of the Big Dance. Domantas Sabonis, who some feel is a future NBA lottery choice, stepped up his game this season and along with Kyle Wiltjer, form a terrific front-court for the Bulldogs. Both earned first-team all WCC honors while Eric McClellan was the WCC Defensive Player of the Year. Gonzaga is 22-18 all-time in NCAA Tournament games with six trips to the Sweet 16 and two trips to the Elite Eight, although the team was just 1-3 against ranked opponents this season.
Seton Hall is a very young, but talented team led by future NBA player Isaiah Whitehead, who scored 26 points in the shocking Big East Championship win over Villanova. The Pirates are making their 10th appearance in the tournament, but their first in 10 years. Whitehead, who is expected to bolt for the NBA after the season, recorded a three-point play in the closing seconds to lead the Pirates to a 69-67 win over the Wildcats in the Big East title game. Another sophomore, Khadeen Carrington, scored a game-high 23 points as Seton Hall beat Xavier 87-83 in the semifinal. Seton Hall comes in pretty hot, winning 12 of their last 14 contests in what was regarded as one of the toughest conferences in the nation. Whitehead leads the team with 18.4 points a game, 5.0 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. Sophomore Angel Delgado (9.4 rebounds, 57.1% FG) will challenge the Gonzaga front-court, but is prone to get into foul trouble. Delgado averages 10.0 points a game, but has scored in single-digits in four of the last five games.
Ignore the seedings in this one. This should be a very good back-and-forth contest, but Gonzaga has a little more experience and should pull it out and advance to play either Utah or Fresno State.
Pick: Gonzaga -1