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NCAA Tournament Preview: #8 Northwestern vs. #1 Gonzaga

The Wildcats look to continue their magical season against heavily favored Gonzaga.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Northwestern vs Vanderbilt Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The dream season continues for Northwestern.

In their first-ever NCAA Tournament game, the Wildcats used a touch of luck to squeak past Vanderbilt. With time winding down and Northwestern trailing by one, Vanderbilt’s Michael Fisher-Davis had a Chris Webber moment that propelled the Wildcats to victory.

Up 66-65 with 14 seconds remaining, Fisher-Davis fouled Bryant McIntosh before he passed half-court, thinking the Commodores still had a foul to give. It turned out he was very wrong, leaving McIntosh at the charity stripe for the chance to put his team ahead.

Bryant McIntosh made free throw. 66-66

Bryant McIntosh made free throw. 67-66

The Indiana-native sealed the win for Northwestern, bringing their all-time NCAA Tournament record to a perfect 1-0.

Northwestern will now have the ‘honor’ of playing No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday in the Round of 32.

You can preview Northwestern’s upcoming game below, with betting odds courtesy of KenPom.

-Northwestern Wildcats vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

  • Time/TV: 5:15 P.M ET — CB
  • KenPom spread: Gonzaga (-10.5)

1. What Will Northwestern Do With Nigel Williams-Goss?

It’s no secret, Nigel Williams-Goss is a baller, probably one of the Top-5 players in the entire tournament. So it begs the question, what does Northwestern plan on doing to stop him?

Goss is very shifty and great off the dribble with both hands, whoever guards him needs to be able to move laterally. The Wildcats play a hybrid-version of a man-to-man, switching all the time. If Bryant McIntosh gets left alone with Williams-Goss, he’ll get eaten alive, so their best bet will be to keep Scottie Lindsey or Vic Law draped on him as much as possible.

No one is going to shut him down, but the ‘Cats just need to make sure he doesn’t go off. If Northwestern can make other players beat them, they’ll be in much better position to pull of the upset.

2. Can Vic Law Figure Get Back To Being Productive On Offense?

If Vic Law can pull a Dan Dakich and shut down Nigel Williams-Goss, he’ll have done his job and more. However, that’s an extremely tall task, so Law will need to get back on track offensively to make his mark.

In his last two games, Law has had a difficult time getting things going when he has the rock. He is shooting just 18.7 percent (3-16) from the field, including 0-4 from beyond the arc.

Normally, Law is one of the guys who Chris Collins relies on. On the year, he is averaging 12.5 points per game, including a eight-consecutive double-digit performances to start Big Ten play. It’s going to be all hands on deck against Gonzaga, so that means Law needs to get some buckets by any means necessary.

3. Does Northwestern Have Any Magic Left?

All year, Northwestern has had a magical feel to their team. Nathan Taphorn’s hail-mary pass against Michigan is all the proof you need.

The ‘Cats got more of it against Vanderbilt, as Bryant McIntosh epitomized the meaning of ‘charity stripe’ with his gifted free throws to put them ahead.

The program may need another dose come Saturday, as Gonzaga is obviously the superior team. However, if any team were to slay the almighty Bulldogs, why wouldn’t it be the biggest ‘Cinderella’ story in the NCAA Tournament.

After all, they don’t call it March Madness for nothing.

Overall:

Call it Big Ten bias, call it whatever you want, but I’m rolling with Northwestern in this game. There’s too much positive ju-ju in the air for the boys from Evanston to get blown out.

Now, I hope they win outright, but it’s definitely comforting to know that the ‘Cats have 10.5 points to work with.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Northwestern

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Casey’s Record vs. The Spread: 46-26-2