Indianapolis, Indiana – The #11 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, 3-0, play the #1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, 2-0, in the Jimmy V Classic. Here’s how our staff experts think the game will go down:
Clark Johnson, Football Analyst, The Voice of Motown (3-0 on the season): Gonzaga = really good. West Virginia = good. That’s all I have to say about this one. Gonzaga rolls.
Gonzaga 99 WVU 80
Blain Smith, Host, The Porch Sessions Podcast and Live Show on The Voice of Motown(3-0 on the season): DON’T GIVE UP, DON’T EVER GIVE UP. The iconic speech from Jimmy V himself embodies the type of fight the Mountaineers will need to “upset” the Zags. The national media already has Gonzaga cutting down the nets in this same town in a few months, but Bob Huggins wanted this game for a reason.
WVU won’t be afraid of #1 and is a deeper team. Timmie and Kispert are extremely skilled big men but do they want to bang down low with Oscar and Culver? Suggs is a diaper dandy but Deuce won’t be fazed by the accolades.
WVU knows they need to make this game UGLY to win and make no mistake about it, Gabe Osabuohien doesn’t mind doing that. It is in our DNA to “do what we do” and make the game ugly. Hopefully the rims recover from the rock fight last night between Kansas and Kentucky because they are in from another tonight.
WVU 73 GONZAGA 69
Brad Smith, Senior Writer/Owner, The Voice of Motown (3-0 on the season): West Virginia is built to face adversity and built to overcome challenges. When the Mountaineers were down by nine points in the second half against Western Kentucky, many team would have buckled and accepted their fate. This West Virginia team, however, methodically inched their way back in by concentrating on the things they do best – rebounding, defense and defense.
West Virginia’s suffocating defense in the second half was the difference and it’s what led to a championship win against Western Kentucky and it will be what leads the Mountaineers to many tough victories this season.
With that said, Gonzaga has it all. Drew Timme, the 6’10 sophomore forward, is averaging 26.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while shooting 71% from the field. Corey Kispert, a 6’7 senior, literally does everything on the court well. He’s averaging 24.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game on 63% from the field. Timme and Kispert are both crafty and they are both winners.
Jalen Suggs, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the nation, has been spectacular through two games, averaging 18.0 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per game. Joel Ayayi, a 6’5 junior guard, plays exceptional defense and averages 10 points and 8 rebounds per game.
And this is against really, really good competition. Gonzaga handled #7 ranked Kansas rather easily, beating them 102-90 and then beat a very good Auburn team 90-67.
Gonzaga is ranked #1 in the nation for a reason and will not be an easy out, but the Mountaineers can (and will) beat them if they do the following:
Take care of the ball – West Virginia had only 3 turnovers in their opening game and then had 15 and 21 turnovers the next two games. The Mountaineers will need to keep their turnovers in the single digits against Gonzaga.
Shoot better – The Mountaineers are only shooting 41.1% from the field and 31.7% from three point range so far this season. Only Derek Culver and Taz Sherman are shooting over 50% right now. Sean McNeil, who is shooting 32.5% from the field, will need to be more consistent as well.
Rough Gonzaga up – Gonzaga has not – and likely will not – play anyone with the physicality of the Mountaineers. West Virginia should force the Bulldogs to shoot from three point range, where they are only making 30.8% of their shots. If the Mountaineers can pack it in inside the lane, force outside shots and mix in some full-court pressure (Press Virginia?), they can really cause major problems for Gonzaga.
WVU 78 Gonzaga 76