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Oklahoma State, Gonzaga square off Friday in NCAAs
By: Robert Livingston - StatFox
Published: 3/21/2014  at  5:28:00 AM
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NCAA Tournament - Round of 64
Viejas Arena - San Diego, CA
Tip-off: Friday, 4:40 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma State -3, Total: 139

After a rocky season that included a suspension for star PG Marcus Smart, No. 8 seed Oklahoma State will look to show why expectations were so high this season, starting with a Friday matchup as slight favorites against No. 9 seed Gonzaga.

The Cowboys hit a major funk at the end of January with seven straight losses (SU and ATS), including the final three with Smart suspended for pushing a Texas Tech fan. But Oklahoma State also proved its talent in five wins against NCAA Tournament teams, beating Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Memphis and Colorado, Texas and Kansas. The Cowboys enter the NCAA Tournament with a 13-16 ATS overall record, including 5-4 ATS (12-1 SU) in non-conference play. They are also 5-2 SU (2-5 ATS) on neutral courts, and are a woeful 2-10 ATS in non-home games after two straight contests of committing 11 or fewer turnovers. But OSU now faces a Gonzaga team that is 0-8 ATS over the past three seasons in non-home games after covering in two or more consecutive games. The Bulldogs have covered the spread during four of their five straight SU wins, improving to 17-15 ATS overall, but are a poor 4-7 ATS in non-conference play. They went 3-4 ATS (5-2 SU) at neutral sites, and lost to the only ranked team they played all season (Feb. 8 at Memphis) but were still able to win the WCC Tournament to secure a berth in the Big Dance.

Who will win this matchup of talented schools? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts opened the NCAA Tournament with a perfect 7-0 ATS mark in First Four games, making them a stellar 60% ATS (278-185-16) in college basketball Best Bets this season. StatFox Brian is on an amazing Best Bets run of 23-3-2 (89% ATS) since Feb. 6, 32-6-3 (84% ATS) since Jan. 17, and 74% ATS (57-20-3) since Nov. 26 to give him a robust 70% ATS (64-27-4) record in Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave is 65% ATS (41-22-1) since in Best Bets Dec. 18 and 61% ATS (58-37-2) this season, while StatFox Scott is 70% ATS (14-6-2) since Feb. 16 and 59% ATS (54-38-4) for the season. StatFox Gary is 61% ATS (50-32) on Best Bets since Nov. 22 and 57% ATS (54-40-2) for the season, while StatFox Zach 64% ATS (7-4) since March 2.

Oklahoma Stateís quick offense puts up 80.3 PPG (16th in Div. I) on a strong 46.5% FG (64th in Div. I). The Cowboys defense yields 69.1 PPG on 40.7% shooting while forcing a solid 14.2 turnovers per game. Their star is future NBA player PG Marcus Smart (17.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.7 APG), who isnít a great shooter (30% threes) but runs the offense effectively and is comfortable with the ball in his hands. He has a solid partner in crime on the wing in SG Markel Brown (17.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG), who is making 1.7 threes per game on a solid 38% clip. Sophomore SG Phil Forte III (13.3 PPG) rounds out the backcourt as the groupís expert shooter, nailing three treys per game at a fantastic 45% rate. Down low, the teamís only double-digit post scorer is SF LeíBryan Nash (14.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG), while PF Kamari Brown (6.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG) paces the team on the glass despite not being much of a scoring threat.

The Gonzaga offense has been efficient as usual this season, making 49.8% of its shots (5th in Div. I) while scoring 76.9 PPG (40th in Div. I). Its defense was also pretty stingy, holding opponents to 39.4% shooting and 65.0 PPG. PF Sam Dower (15.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG) leads the way, making 59% FG despite a willingness to take jump shots and not only shoot from right beneath the hoop. He has two 20-point efforts in the teamís past three games. Sophomore C Przemek Karnowski (10.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG) joins him down low as much more of a rim stopper, swatting 1.7 BPG. In the backcourt, PG David Stockton (7.5 PPG, 4.2 APG) is the teamís leading assist getter despite not being much of a scorer, making only 23% threes this season. The shooting abilities of SGs Kevin Pangos (14.1 PPG, 3.7 APG) and Gary Bell Jr. (11.2 PPG) help offset Stockton's inaccuracy, as both players shoot better than 41% from long range. Bell is currently red-hot, making 5-of-6 threes in the teamís past two games, while Pangos hit a funk, averaging just 9.0 PPG in the teamís past four contests.

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