The time has come for the 1 seed in the West to show that it belongs on the biggest stage.
Following a season of beating tournament team after tournament team after tournament team, somehow, Gonzaga still has something to prove. The 34-1 Bulldogs will take on 4 seed West Virginia on Thursday night, and a win over the Mountaineers would go a long way toward silencing the critics.
Between the regular season and conference tournament, West Virginia won 15 Big 12 games to establish itself as one of the best teams in the country. Led by Jevon Carter and Esa Ahmad, the Mountaineers own wins over Virginia, Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State, and Notre Dame. They are, perhaps, the most proven team that the Bulldogs have faced all year, and they are certainly the most unique.
West Virginia is known for forcing its opponents to make mistakes, leading the nation in turnover percentage defense and shortest average possession length on defense. “Press Virginia” also ranks third in steal percentage and fifth nationally in defensive efficiency.
It will fall on the experienced Gonzaga backcourt of Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews to both control the tempo and prevent one or two turnovers from compounding.
One can argue that Gonzaga is the most complete team remaining in the field, but this will be its toughest challenge yet. Here’s how to watch: