Gonzaga or McNeese? How to pick 5 vs 12 matchup in 2024 March Madness bracket

College basketball fans were thrilled by the 2023 NCAA Tournament, but one thing didn’t sit well with amateur bracketologists. There was no 12 over 5 seed upset in the tournament’s first round.

That No. 5 seed winning streak seems unlikely to last throughout March Madness in 2024.

No. 12 seeds have historically posted a record of 53-99 against No. 5 seeds. That may not seem great, but their .349 winning percentage is among the best for double-digit seeds in the NCAA Tournament. The likelihood of 11 seeds and 10 seeds pulling off wins is higher, but not by much.

Those stats could signal trouble for Gonzaga as it prepares to face McNeese in the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

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Gonzaga (25-7, 14-2 WCC) was one of the first midmajor darlings to establish itself as a consistent national competitor. Mark Few’s team has made the NCAA Tournament every year since 1999 and has made it to at least the Sweet 16 in its last nine March Madness appearances. Graham Ike and Co. will look to keep that streak going in 2024 as the experienced Bulldogs compete in the Midwest Regional.

McNeese (30-3, 17-1 Southland) figures to be a tough opponent for the Bulldogs. The Cowboys are coached by Will Wade, who took LSU to the Sweet 16 in 2019, and are led by do-it-all guard Shahada Wells, a 6-0 senior who leads the team in scoring and has great defensive instincts.

Many expect Gonzaga to emerge with the win, but can McNeese pull off the upset? Sporting News breaks down this NCAA Tournament matchup that will determine who has a right to play the winner of the Kansas vs. Samford game.

EXPERT PICKS: DeCourcy (UConn) | Bender (UConn) | Iyer (UConn) | Yanchulis (South Carolina women)

Gonzaga vs. McNeese odds

The Bulldogs are favored to beat the Cowboys, according to odds from BetMGM. This isn’t a surprise considering Gonzaga is the better-rated seed and that Mark Few’s squad has enjoyed plenty of success in March Madness over the last couple of decades.

Below, you can find odds and details about the first-round matchup, including time, date and TV channel.

  • Odds: Gonzaga -5.5
  • Date: Thursday, March 21
  • Time: 7:25 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS
  • Arena: Delta Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

Gonzaga (25-7, 14-2 WCC)

For the first time since 2019, Gonzaga failed to win the WCC Tournament. The Bulldogs got to the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid after falling 69-60 against long-time rival Saint Mary’s in the championship game.

Despite that postseason defeat, Mark Few’s squad is looking as consistent as ever as it looks to mount another Final Four run. The Bulldogs won nine consecutive conference games sandwiched between competitive losses to Saint Mary’s, which constitute two of their six defeats on the season.

Among Gonzaga’s five other losses were 10- and 13-point defeats at the hands of Purdue and UConn, two of the NCAA Tournament’s four No. 1 seeds. They also lost by 10 points to San Diego State, the national runner-up from last season.

Losses to Washington and Santa Clara were a bit less impressive, but suffice to say that there’s no shame in Gonzaga having lost to higher-end competition like UConn and Purdue. Those difficult games will ensure Gonzaga is battle-tested and ready for March Madness in 2024.

Gonzaga could be pesky thanks to the team’s ability to turn defense into offense quickly. They rank 20th in the country in fast break points per game (14.44) and four of their five starters average at least a steal per game, so McNeese will have its hands full trying to deal with that fast-paced offense.

The Bulldogs also have size, as three of their starters are at least 6-8 — Anton Watson (6-8), Graham Ike (6-9) and Ben Gregg (6-10). That’s why the team ranks 18th in the country in rebounding margin at plus-7.3 per game.

Add in Gonzaga’s experienced lineup — four juniors and one senior start — and it’s easy to see why many will pick the Bulldogs to make another deep tournament run.

  • NET ranking: 17
  • KenPom ranking: 15th
  • Quad 1 record: 3-6
  • Quad 2 record: 4-1
  • Quad 3 record: 5-0
  • Quad 4 record: 12-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 9th
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 46th

Key players

Graham Ike (6-9, 240-pound junior forward)

16.5 PTS, 7.2 REB, 1.0 AST

Anton Watson (6-8, 228-pound senior forward)

14.4 PTS, 7.1 REB, 2.5 AST, 1.5 STL

Nolan Hickman (6-2, 183-pound junior guard) 

13.9 PTS, 2.3 REB, 2.8 AST, 1.0 STL

Ryan Nembhard (6-0, 175-pound junior guard) 

12.9 PTS, 4.1 REB, 6.7 AST, 1.2 STL

Ben Gregg (6-10, 230-pound junior forward)

8.9 PTS, 5.7 REB, 1.2 AST, 1.3 STL

STREAM: Watch 2024 NCAA Tournament games live with Sling

McNeese (30-3, 17-1 Southland)

McNeese State figures to be one of the sleeper darling among bracketologists. They may not have much experience playing Quad 1 and Quad 2 teams, but they have the traits needed to be a giant killer when the tournament tips off.

Three things stand out about McNeese’s on-court abilities. The Cowboys are a great 3-point shooting team, they protect the ball well and they generate the steals and fastbreak points needed to swing a game in a hurry.

The Cowboys have the eighth-highest 3-point percentage in the NCAA this season. They make 38.83 percent of their deep shots, and four of their five starters shoot at least 40 percent from beyond the arc.

McNeese doesn’t take an abundance of deep shots, as they attempt just 19.7 per game, good for 263rd among 362 Div. I schools. That means that the Cowboys are looking for good, open shots. They aren’t just relentlessly chucking up deep balls on offense. They are efficient.

The Cowboys are also efficient when it comes to turnovers. They have the NCAA’s third-best turnover margin at plus-6.7 per game. Only Houston (7.1) and Iowa State (6.9) are better, and those teams are No. 1 and No. 2 seeds respectively.

McNeese is particularly good at forcing turnovers, as they rank ninth in the NCAA with 16.45 per game. Shahada Wells excels at this, averaging 2.97 steals per game, second country-wide to only FIU’s Arturo Dean.

If McNeese puts its best foot forward against Gonzaga, the Cowboys will have a chance to pull off the big-time upset. At the very least, watching them square off against the Bulldogs will be fun since the two teams play a similar style and can turn defense into offense at the drop of a dime.

  • NET ranking: 56
  • KenPom ranking: 60
  • Quad 1 record: 1-0
  • Quad 2 record: 2-2
  • Quad 3 record: 4-0
  • Quad 4 record: 19-1
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 51st
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 84th

Key players

Shahada Wells (6-0, 184-pound senior guard)

17.8 PTS, 4.5 REB, 4.8 AST, 3.0 STL

Christian Shumate (6-6, 213-pound junior forward)

11.9 PTS, 9.5 REB, 0.9 AST, 1.4 BLK

Javohn Garcia (6-3, 183-pound junior guard) 

11.4 PTS, 3.3 REB, 1.7 AST, 1.4 STL

DJ Richards Jr. (6-4, 185-pound sophomore guard) 

11.4 PTS, 2.2 REB, 0.6 AST, 1.0 STL

Antavion Collum (6-9, 242-pound senior center)

8.8 PTS, 4.6 REB, 1.6 AST

MORE: Buy tickets to 2024 March Madness games

Gonzaga vs. McNeese prediction

Gonzaga vs. McNeese figures to be one of the more entertaining first-round matchups of the NCAA Tournament. The teams play similar styles and the fast-break nature of each squad could lead to a lot of quick buckets and changes in momentum.

The Bulldogs are favored, and rightfully so. They have more NCAA Tournament experience than McNeese, and have an experienced lineup consisting mostly of juniors and seniors. They are an efficient team that fits Few’s system well and should play a connected game against McNeese.

But McNeese could still pull off the upset. They have a sharp-shooting lineup and don’t make the same types of turnovers on which Gonzaga usually feasts. That could tilt the fast-break advantage in McNeese’s favor if Wells and Co. play a clean game.

Gonzaga still has a size advantage over McNeese, but Antavion Collum’s presence should negate at least some of that. Provided that the 6-9 center doesn’t get in foul trouble, he and bench player CJ Felder (6-8) can match up with the larger Bulldogs and slow down their potential edges in the paint and on the boards.

McNeese must shake off any early jitters quickly to get a win, and can’t afford an uncharacteristically shaky game from behind the arc. But if you’re looking for a potential 12 over 5 upset to back, McNeese has the traits needed to earn an unexpected win. They match up well with Gonzaga and should keep this one close at the very least.

HISTORY OF UPSETS BY SEED:
16 vs. 115 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5

History of 5 vs. 12 matchups in NCAA Tournament

Every fan-created bracket tends to have a 12 over 5 upset in it, and it’s for a good reason. No. 12 seeds have a .349 winning percentage against No. 5 seeds which shows that in an average year, at least one 12 seed pulls off an upset.

But that wasn’t the case in 2023, as all four No. 5 seeds won their games. That was a strong crop of 5 seeds, as Miami (FL) made it to the Elite Eight while San Diego State made it to the national championship game before losing to UConn.

Only two other NCAA Tournaments have lacked a 12 over 5 upset since 2010; those were the 2015 and 2018 editions of March Madness. But in 2013, 2014 and 2019, three 12 seeds were able to beat their higher-ranked counterparts.

Here’s a look back at all the 12 over 5 upsets since 2010.

Year Result
2022 Richmond 67, Iowa 63
2022 New Mexico State 70, UConn 63
2021 Oregon State 70, Tennessee 56
2019 Murray State 83, Marquette 64
2019 Liberty 80, Mississippi State 76
2019 Oregon 72, Wisconsin 54
2017 Middle Tennessee 81, Minnesota 72
2016 Yale 79, Baylor 75
2016 Little Rock 85, Purdue 83 (2 OTs)
2014 Stephen F. Austin 77, VCU 75 (OT)
2014 North Dakota State 80, Oklahoma 75 (OT)
2014 Harvard 61, Cincinnati 57
2013 Oregon 68, Oklahoma State 55
2013 California 64, UNLV 61
2013 Ole Miss 57, Wisconsin 46
2012 VCU 62, Wichita State 59
2012 South Florida 58, Temple 44
2011 Richmond 69, Vanderbilt 66
2010 Cornell 78, Temple 65

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