Sweet 16 Odds & Picks for Arkansas vs. Gonzaga: Why a Blowout is Expected in Thursday’s NCAA Tournament Game
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Rasir Bolton (Gonzaga)
Arkansas vs. Gonzaga Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The Chase Center will feature the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds in the West region battling for the chance to go to the Elite Eight.
For Arkansas and Gonzaga, a loss in the Sweet 16 would be a step back from each team’s 2021 results. The Razorbacks’ run ended in the Elite Eight while the Bulldogs lost the national title to Baylor.
Gonzaga reached the Sweet 16 this season by defeating Georgia State and Memphis in non-covering games. Although the Bulldogs failed to cover in both matchups, ShotQuality gave Gonzaga a minimum 88% post-game win expectancy over its first two opponents.
Drew Timme has been outstanding, collecting 57 points and 27 rebounds through the two games.
The depth of the Razorbacks’ bench has been an issue most of the season, but a simple lineup change has made them one of the most dangerous defensive teams in the country.
Moving guard Davonte Davis to the sixth-man slot — while fielding a bigger lineup — led to a surge in SEC play.
The focus of this team is to finish at the basket, draw contact and feast at the free throw line. Foul trouble has been a persistent issue, and it must be resolved if Arkansas is to have any chance of beating Gonzaga.
The SEC’s only remaining team is pinning its hopes on keeping JD Notae out of foul trouble.
Head coach Eric Musselman is a strong advocate of sitting players with two fouls in the first half. Personal fouls were an issue in an early exit to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament, and again in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Notae has already collected nine personal fouls through wins against Vermont and New Mexico State.
Musselman has elected to limit Miami transfer Chris Lykes’ minutes at the point and insert sixth-man Davis as the ball handler.
Another critical player on the team is sophomore big Jaylin Williams. While Notae gets plenty of highlights for transition and long-range shots, Williams is the backbone of the team as an elite passer and a national leader in taking charges.
Jaylin Williams Charge Counter: 50 https://t.co/kg0e3UAsbp pic.twitter.com/W7sNKTVpwi
— Intuition Hoops (@IntuitionHoops) March 18, 2022
Arkansas plays a strict man-to-man defense, which provides some of the best efficiency ranks against the pick-and-roll, catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts and defending the rim.
Despite an average height of 209th in the nation, the Razorbacks field a top-15 defense, per KenPom‘s adjusted efficiency. The bulk of the defensive numbers come from rebounding, turnover rate and interior defense.
The Razorbacks are also a top-25 team in defending the rim, which will be a crucial component vs. Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are the second-best team offensively in finishing at the rim, and are the seventh-tallest team (in terms of average height) in the nation.
By taking away Chet Holmgren, Memphis may have found the key to beating an explosive Gonzaga roster. The possible No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft was limited to just nine points and nine rebounds against the Tigers.
In previous losses to Saint Mary’s and Alabama, Holmgren posted a combined 16 points, which is in contrast to the automatic double-double numbers we have come to expect from the true freshman.
Here's a compilation of 7'1, 195 LBS Chet Holmgren DOMINATING the 6'10, 250 LBS Jalen Duren on both ends through the first 5 minutes: pic.twitter.com/se5eIwQ4g1
— DGC (@Itamar_17_10) March 20, 2022
Head coach Mark Few prefers to avoid a half-court game as much as possible, ranking second in average possession length on offense. The Zags are fifth in the nation in transition efficiency, which is certainly an aspect that comes into play during the Sweet 16.
Arkansas ranks 52nd in defensive average possession length, inviting most SEC opponents to speed it up.
Gonzaga will look to work on the interior, as its the top team in the nation in 2-point percentage. However, its defense can be lackadaisical at times. The Bulldogs are 296th in turnover rate and defense, an aspect that may allow the Razorbacks to use Lykes at the point position.
The Bulldogs’ length forces opponents to change shots, but screens, post-ups and pick-and-rolls have been their kryptonite on the defensive end. Arkansas has better offensive efficiency metrics in each of those areas, putting Gonzaga on notice to play solid defense.
Arkansas vs. Gonzaga Betting Pick
Both Gonzaga and Arkansas had two of the tougher paths in getting to the Sweet 16, as Georgia State, Memphis and Vermont were all underseeded to start the tournament.
These are two of the best coaches in the nation, as Musselman ranks 15th in defensive points per possession after a timeout, and Few ranks sixth in offensive points per possession after a timeout.
This will be a classic chess match where Gonzaga has more pieces in the arsenal to attack a Razorbacks team that sits at 225th in defensive foul rate.
Arkansas and Gonzaga prefer to run offense in transition, which should make this a slam dunk for a wager on the total to go over. The issue for the Razorbacks is that the Gonzaga defense does defend what the Hogs want to execute.
Musselman runs a high frequency of transition attacks, using backdoor cuts and finishing at the rim. The Hogs do not shoot from the perimeter with any kind of frequency or success, leaving this game on the shoulders of Williams to pull Holmgren to the free throw line and expose Gonzaga with assists to cutters heading to the rim.
Gonzaga is fifth defensively against opponents cutting to the basket, 19th in post-up and is the best team in rim protection. Those attributes are the Razorbacks’ forte on offense, meaning Notae must be hot from the perimeter to keep Arkansas in this game.
The senior guard has not hit more than two shots from beyond the arc since Feb. 19 against Tennessee. The Zags are 293rd in defensive efficiency against off-dribble 3-point attempts, which may be where Musselman directs Notae to execute.
The Hogs have been one of the best teams in the nation on the defensive end, but no team in the SEC has the size or transition speed of Gonzaga. Arkansas is a top-10 defense in transition, but its defensive foul rate has been a persistent issue.
Few will look to get Arkansas’ best players in foul trouble to force Musselman to dip into a shallow bench.
Per Evan Miya, the Razorbacks must have Notae and Williams on the floor at all times against any opponent.
The Zags are second in the nation in post-up offense and finishing at the rim, both designed to draw fouls from Williams if charges are not called. Gonzaga also has a clear advantage in mid-range jumpers and off-the-dribble 3-point attempts, two elements that could expose an undersized Razorbacks roster.
For Arkansas to win this game, Notae must stay out of foul trouble and hit 3-point shots, while Williams gets the charge calls instead of defensive fouls.
With a short roster loaded with transfers, Musselman has done one of the better coaching jobs in all of basketball. But the Sweet 16 will be the end of the road for the Hogs.
Pick: Gonzaga -9.5 (Play to -11)
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