Round of 32 Preview: TCU vs. Gonzaga

Round of 32 Preview: TCU vs. Gonzaga

Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. TCU Horned Frogs

Line: Gonzaga -4.5

Total: 153.5

Where: Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado

When: Sunday, 3/19 at 9:40 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

No. 3 seed Gonzaga has been a perennial March Madness contender, but it entered the 2023 NCAA Tournament flying under the radar.

The Bulldogs looked like their normal March selves in the opening round on Friday, controlling the entire second half in their 82-70 win over No. 14 seed Grand Canyon. They are facing a much stiffer challenge in the form of No. 6 seed TCU in the second round on Sunday night. The Horned Frogs snuck past No. 11 seed Arizona State on a last-second shot in their opener.

Oddsmakers opened Gonzaga as a 4.5-point favorite, which is where the line remained as of early Sunday. The total opened at 157 before dipping to 156.5 after some early betting action. It’s now down to 153.5 points.

TCU has gone ‘under’ in five straight games, while Gonzaga has gone ‘over’ in eight of its last 11 games.

The Bulldogs have not lost a first-round game in the Big Dance since 2008, with Julian Strawther posting a 28-point, 10-rebound double-double in Friday’s win—they are seeking their eighth straight berth in the Sweet 16. Veteran forward Drew Timme, who is the school’s all-time leading scorer, returned to the tournament with 21 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

They trailed by as many as seven points in the first half, but Timme’s three-point play capped off a strong start to the second half as Gonzaga took a 48-40 lead. Strawther kept Gonzaga in the game in the opening frame, scoring 16 first-half points.

“I thought we were in a good place going into halftime,” Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew said. “But Gonzaga’s one of the best programs in the nation for a reason.”

The Bulldogs are now 16-1 in their last 17 games in March and have covered the spread in four of their last six games. They have KenPom’s top-ranked offense in adjusted efficiency, ranked inside the top 10 in 3-point percentage (38.6) and 2-point percentage (58.9). TCU relies on a defense that is No. 23 in adjusted efficiency.

The Horned Frogs dug themselves an 11-point hole early in the second half against Arizona State, but they chipped away before eventually taking a three-point lead with 24 seconds remaining. Arizona State’s DJ Horne drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game with 15 seconds left, but TCU responded with a JaKobe Coles floater with 1.5 seconds remaining to win the game.

“He (Coles) didn’t have the role he wanted,” TCU star Mike Miles Jr. said. “But this year he’s getting the minutes he wanted. He’s stepping up. In the biggest game of his life, he made the game-winning shot.”

Miles, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, scored a game-high 26 points against the Sun Devils on Friday. The junior guard is averaging 17.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, while senior guard Damion Baugh (12.5) and senior forward Emanuel Miller (12.3) are both in double digits as well.

TCU has struggled from beyond the arc throughout the season, ranked No. 336 in 3-point percentage (30.8). It is facing a Gonzaga defense that is No. 244 in effective field goal percentage and No. 75 in adjusted efficiency.

The Bulldogs are 4-2 against the spread in their last six games, while TCU is 1-4 ATS in its last five games. The Horned Frogs are 1-5 ATS in their last six games as underdogs.

The pick: Gonzaga -4.5

Timme has now averaged 22.6 points per game in a remarkable 10 March Madness games during his lengthy career. TCU has been playing without big man Eddie Lampkin Jr. since the beginning of March, and his absence is going to be crucial in the paint on Sunday night. Strawther has continued to take charge of Gonzaga’s offense as the season has progressed as well, which is a major reason why the Bulldogs are the top-ranked offense in the country. TCU is a scrappy team that is not going to die easily, but it ultimately lacks the firepower to challenge Gonzaga down the stretch.

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