Matchup: NCAA West Regional, 2nd Round: #8 Northwestern Wildcats (24-11) vs. #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (33-1)
Date: Saturday, 18 March, 2017, 4:15 pm CDT, Salt Lake City, UT
Line: Northwestern (+11), O/U: 137
Outlook: Not only another off-season Lowes Line for you folks, but the shortest turnaround of content in Lowes Line history. What transpired on Thursday was about the most exciting thing any Northwestern fan could ask for. Raise your hand if when NU had a 15-point second half lead, you thought, "We got this." Yeah, me neither. Old habits die hard. Vandy
started shooting the lights out to make it a one-possession game in no
time, and NU's fortunes down the stretch were strapped to the back of a
50% free throw shooter. Incredible.
guard Matthew Fisher-Davis inadvertently intentionally (don't read that
phrase too often, eh?) fouled Bryant McIntosh in the backcourt,
thinking Vandy was losing when they were in fact up one. While
not anywhere as egregious as classic brain farts from Fred Brown (1982)
or Chris Webber (1993), Fisher-Davis put BMac on the line for two that
gave the 'Cats the lead they wouldn't relinquish.
To succeed in the NCAA Tournament, it's no secret that you need to have terrific play from your guards. The 'Cats got that from junior McIntosh and then some. BMac
played arguably his best game of the year when NU needed him the most,
scoring 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting from the floor, including 3 of 5
from beyond the arc. Sophomore Dererk Pardon also was huge down the stretch, connecting on six free throws during crunch time, and helping to give NU another tick in the "things we've never done" column with the school's first Tournament victory.
On to the round of 32 game against Gonzaga later today. The Bulldogs are a strong squad who, admit it, you've never seen play, even though they're 33-1. You think there's an east coast bias against Pac-12 football? Multiply it by ten for West Coast Conference hoops. Gonzaga
has been good for some time, and coach Mark Few has won almost 500
games there in the past 19 years, making the Tourney each time. This is his best squad, and the 'Zags have five players who average double figures. NU
will have to keep their eyes on senior Jordan Mathews on the perimeter,
and Pardon will have his hands full with 7-1 senior Przemek Karnowski,
a 300+ lb monster who takes up a lot of space and moves decently for a big man.
This one seems straightforward. BMac showed some signs of struggling when Vandy doubled him or put pressure on the ball. This is sure to happen by the Gonzaga defense. To which the answer is: Vic Law, this is your moment. Whatever Kool-Aid you drank before that miraculous game in Evanston against Michigan two plus weeks ago, get yourself a refill. Quite
simply, Northwestern not only won't upset Gonzaga if Law again scores
only two points as he did against Vandy, they might get run out of the
gym. We'll need the cheesy, but accurate, "'Zags fought the Law, and the Law won" comment in order to have hopes for a date in the Sweet 16.
NU is a very good team that beat another one in the first round. They're going to be good again next year as well. I just don't think they have the horses to keep up with a very strong Gonzaga squad.
PICK: Gonzaga 71, Northwestern, 65. Take the 'Cats and the points as NU's tourney comes to an end. Go 'Cats!
Lowes Line Hoops record to date: 1-0 straight up; 1-0 against the spread