(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Nigel Williams-Goss is the key factor in whether Gonzaga can handle the West Virginia press.
Tipoff: 4:39 p.m. / TV: TBS / Vegas says: Gonzaga by 3
Records: Gonzaga 34-1, West Virginia 28-8
The storyline: Gonzaga, which won its first 29 games this season, gets the chance to show it deserved its No 1 seeding. The Bulldogs advanced to San Jose despite struggling in the first half against South Dakota State and the second half against Northwestern in wins last week at Salt Lake City. The No. 4 seed Mountaineers won’t make it easy. They lead the nation in turnovers forced, turnover margin and steals.
The stars: Gonzaga junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, the WCC Player of the Year, leads the Bulldogs in scoring (16.7) and assists (4.7). The Washington transfer takes big shots and converts better than 90 percent from the free throw line. … West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, is the team’s top scorer (13.3) and is sixth nationally with 91 steals. The junior point guard was a 1st-team Academic All-Big 12 selection.
The role players: Gonzaga freshman center Zach Collins, who played on four straight Nevada state high school championship teams, averaged 12 points off the bench in the Bulldogs’ first two NCAA games. Collins is projected as potentially the No. 14 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. … West Virginia’s Nathan Adrian, home-grown in Morgantown, W.V., has blossomed as a senior. The 6-9 forward, averaging career-bests of 9.7 points and 6.0 rebounds, is regarded as the “glue” on the team.
The coaches: West Virginia’s Bob Huggins has his team in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in 10 seasons at his alma mater, the second time in the past three years. The 63-year-old, with 747 career victories, had a health scare during a Feb. 20 game against Texas when his implanted defibrillator went off and caused him to briefly collapse on the court. … Mark Few is coming off his 500th career victory in Gonzaga’s second-round NCAA victory. He has directed the Bulldogs to NCAA bids all 18 of his seasons, but is seeking the school’s first Final Four berth.
For Gonzaga to win: The Bulldogs must defuse the Mountaineers’ defensive frenzy enough to take advantage of 7-foot-1, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski, a capable scorer and passer. A heavy load will fall on Williams-Goss, who turned the ball over just once every 15 minutes this season.
For West Virginia to win: “Press Virginia,” which has generated the staggering total of 2,026 turnovers the past three seasons, forced a school-record 40 against Manhattan this season and 29 when it routed then-No. 1 Baylor 89-68 on Jan. 10. How critical is the equation? The Mountaineers are just 1-5 when they lose the turnover battle.