Listen Now: Morning News

Gonzaga brings ‘maybe the best starting five in America’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even before West Virginia tipped off its second-round game against Notre Dame on Saturday, assistant coach Erik Martin began scouting Gonzaga in advance of a potential Sweet 16 matchup.

His work wasn’t conducted in vain.

The Bulldogs (34-1), top-seeded in the West Region, benefited from a goaltending no-call to hold off Northwestern 79-73, and now will meet No. 4 seed West Virginia (28-8) on Thursday night in San Jose, Calif.

If you’re into metrics, Gonzaga ranks ninth in RPI and No. 1 overall in KenPom. On the Vegas side, Gonzaga carries 6-1 odds to win the national championship, third-best behind North Carolina and Kansas at 4-1.

From his film evaluation, Martin said the Bulldogs boast “maybe the best starting five in America” — three-fifths of which arrived via transfers.

Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss became the West Coast Conference player of the year after back-to-back double-digit scoring seasons at Washington. Johnathan Williams led Missouri in scoring, rebounding and blocks two years ago. Graduate transfer Jordan Mathews started 65 games at Cal.

Then there’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound Polish import Przemek Karnowski, who three seasons ago scored 19 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds against West Virginia during an 80-76 win at the Coliseum.

“He was a load then, and now he’s in better condition,” Martin said. “Plus he has a little bit of a right hand.”

While Gonzaga’s 79th-rated strength-of-schedule is the weakest among the Sweet 16 teams, Mark Few’s club owns premium neutral-court wins over Florida (77-72) and Iowa State (73-71) at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and beat Arizona 69-62 at Staples Center.

According to their records of 7-0 against the RPI top 50 and 13-1 vs. the top 100, the Bulldogs compare to West Virginia’s marks of 7-4 and 15-5.

According to the tape measure, they’re the tallest team West Virginia has faced all season. They keep Karnowski fresh by subbing 7-1 freshman Zach Collins — who scores 10.3 per game and shoots 45 percent from 3 — while using the 6-9 Williams and 6-10 freshman Killian Tillie at power forward.

“They’re big,” said Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins. “(Karnowski’s) a low-block guy, and then they bring in another 7-footer that’s got good footwork, very agile and really skilled.

“We’ve faced teams with size before, but you’ve got to block out a little higher. You’ve got to do a better job of not letting them get you under the basket where they can reach over you.”





More Sports

Marshall Sports
Undefeated Herd welcomes Rice to the Joan
After another three week layoff, #15 Marshall is back in action Saturday at the Joan.
December 4, 2020 - 12:01 am
News
Trump honors West Virginia native Holtz with Presidential Medal of Freedom
Lou Holtz was born in Follansbee, West Virginia.
December 3, 2020 - 11:20 pm
Sports
WVU women roll in home opener, 80-51 over North Alabama
The Mountaineers improve to 3-0, heading into Sunday's showdown vs. Tennessee.
December 3, 2020 - 9:50 pm
Sports
The Game Within The Game (Episode 29)
College basketball is heating up with some big matchups, college football is coming down the stretch of the regular season and week 13 of the NFL season is on deck. Brad Howe and Julian Edlow of DraftKings break down key matchups from each sport to help you find an edge.
December 3, 2020 - 4:15 pm