Gonzaga Bulldogs (17-5) +2.5, 143 O/U at St. Marys Gaels (18-3) -2.5, 143 O/U, McKeon Pavilion, Moraga, California, 11 PM Eastern, Monday
by Badger of Predictem.com
Its been a long time since the Gonzaga Bulldogs have been challenged for first place in the West Coast Conference, but thats exactly what they will get Monday night when they travel to play the No. 21-ranked St. Marys Gaels in a key matchup with first-place bragging rights on the line.
Gonzaga is still undefeated in the WCC (at 6-0), but they will have their work cut out for them tonight on the road at the McKeon Pavilion. After all, it was the Gaels that ended their 30-game WCC winning streak last year on the same floor by a score of 80-75. The Bulldogs are prepared though, as they won on the road at Santa Clara (87-82 in 2OT) last time out and blew out Portland the game before that 79-41.
St. Marys on the other hand may have got caught looking ahead last week when they dropped a disappointing game at San Diego, 63-55. They too rebounded to destroy Portland, 86-49, last time out, but the loss at San Diego means they will be playing for a first-place tie, and not sole possession of first like they had hoped.
Las Vegas opened the game with St. Marys as a 2.5- point favorite, with a 143 over/under total. The number has actually gone up to 3-points at a few offshore books like BoDog. The moneyline opened with St. Marys as a -145, with Gonzaga as a +125.
Gonzaga continues to be the poster child for quote mid-major programs, using quality depth and skill and a balanced inside-outside attack to score 83.5 points per game. That depth and skill was on full display last time out, as the Zags shot 50 percent from the floor and had five different players reach double figures in the win over Santa Clara.
Freshman forward Austin Daye, coming off a 22-point game vs. Santa Clara, is one of the countrys best sixth-man, and guards Matt Bouldin (40% from 3-point) and Jeremy Pargo (13 points, 7 assists vs. SC) do a great job of leading the offense and getting players into the right spots on the floor.
St. Marys offense struggled with turnovers in their loss to San Diego (16 of them), but reeled it back in the last time out versus Portland. More importantly, the Gaels are a perfect 12-0 at home this season (including impressive wins over Drake, Seton Hall and Oregon) and are beating teams by an average of 22.6 points on their home floor.
Guard Patrick Mills is the Gaels best all-around player (averages 14.9 pts., 3.7 ass., 1.7 steals), but he has help. Ian OLeary (20 points), Diamon Simpson (13 pts., 15 reb.) and Omar Samhan (18 pts., 9 reb.) all had big games last time out and have proven they can pick up the slack when Mills struggles.
The biggest key to this game tonight will be the Gaels defense versus the Gonzaga offense. As stated earlier, the Bulldogs average 83-plus per game on offense, but the Gaels sport one of the best defenses in the league by holding opponents to just 57.2 points per game.
Despite the recent head-to-head dominance of the Bulldogs in WCC play, the Gaels are the one team that seems to play them tough each time out. Gonzaga has won five out of the last six straight up, but the Gaels have covered in two of the last three meetings.
For the season, St. Marys is a strong play for bettors as their 10-7-1 ATS record shows. The Gaels have covered in five of their last seven overall (8-3 ATS vs. WCC opponents), and are also good early in the week because they also sport a strong 11-3 ATS record in their last 14 games on Monday nights.
Gonzaga is no longer an unknown and they are forced to cover big numbers by oddsmakers as a public darling, and have hence struggled to do so with an 11-11 ATS record so far. They are a strong 8-3 ATS in their last 11 WCC games, but they are the opposite of St. Marys when it comes to Monday games, as they have gone just 5-11-1 in their last 17 on Monday.
With their stellar defense, St. Marys is a strong under play with 12 of their 18 games so far coming in under the total. Gonzaga is just 10-12 versus the total, and three of the last four head-to-head meeting between these two have come in under the total. Ironically though, last years game at between these two at McKeon Pavilion was the lone game that ended over.
Badgers Pick: I like what Ive seen from the Gaels this season. They have played some tough competition (Drake, Seton Hall, Texas, Oregon) and have held their own, so they are past the stage of being classified pretenders now. The best bet in this game is the under, as I expect St. Marys to be so geeked up at the start of the game to knock the big boys off the block that they will struggle shooting the ball. But their strong defense will keep them in it. In the end I expect the Gaels to defend the homecourt and win, but Im not sold entirely on it. So take the under of 143.