Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Pacific Tigers Pick
Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-2 SU, 19-10 ATS) vs. Pacific Tigers (13-16 SU, 13-14 ATS)
When: Thursday, February 28, 2019 – 11 PM ET
Where: Alex Spanos Center, Stockton, Calif.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GONZ -24/PAC +24 (Bovada Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 143.5
Last Time Out: Gonzaga beat BYU 102-68; Pacific lost 63-56 to Loyola Marymount.
Scouting the Bulldogs:
The new No. 1 has looked every bit the part over the past few weeks, as it continues to dominate the West Coast Conference, winning every conference game by a margin of at least 12 points. OK, it’s only the WCC, but that’s still a pretty solid showing, especially when you consider that the three closest competitors to the Bulldogs (Saint Mary’s, BYU and San Francisco) all own a loss to Gonzaga by at least 30 points. That’s sheer domination, and it’s why the Bulldogs have an excellent shot at a No. 1 seed in March.
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Scouting the Tigers:
Here’s what I wrote about Pacific when it faced Gonzaga in Spokane on Jan. 10: “Given that the Tigers don’t make great decisions with the ball, what you really have in this matchup is a team that shoots free throw well but does little else to suggest that it can hang around with Gonzaga to even get to the stripe.”
Absolutely nothing has changed in that respect since that contest. The Tigers still have no offense to speak of besides their foul shooting, and if anything, Pacific has actually gotten worse at shooting than it was in January. The Tigers are down to 42.6 percent for the year from the field, and since an 87-point showing in their league opener against BYU, they haven’t broken 70 points against a West Coast Conference opponent other than winless Portland.
Tempo. To the credit of Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire, he knows exactly what he has with his team. He’s well aware that his squad isn’t any good on offense, and if it’s going to have anything resembling a hope, it has to slow down the contest and limit possessions. Pacific actually did that very well in the teams’ first meeting by holding Gonzaga to 67 points, and the Tigers remain the only team that has successfully held the Bulldogs under 70 points.
The problem was that the Tigers’ offense was so inept that they only scored 36 points for the game when Gonzaga scored 34 in the first half, and Pacific left on the wrong end of a 31-point beating. With things only having gone downhill from there, expect Stoudamire’s crew to slow the game down to a crawl in the hopes that Gonzaga gets frustrated and starts to make mistakes. It won’t work in terms of actually winning the game, but it might work in terms of keeping the score respectable.
Pacific will Cover if:
The Tigers can get to the free throw line. I know I wrote this last time, but it really is that simple for Pacific. When the Tigers can shoot free throws, they have a chance. When they don’t, they don’t generate enough offense to be a real threat to most decent college basketball teams, let alone the likes of Gonzaga. If the Tigers don’t get their attempts from the line, they won’t last long.
Gonzaga will Cover if:
The Bulldogs avoid complacency. Pacific would be in last place in most conferences (and would be in the WCC as well if not for the presence of Portland), and Gonzaga, despite playing teams like Pacific and Pepperdine in February, is likely to be a contender for the top overall seed. That means that it’s going to be human nature for Gonzaga to back off and decide that the job is already done after just a few minutes because it’s likely that Pacific isn’t going to put up much of a fight. Gonzaga simply has to play its game for the full 40 minutes.
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Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
I hate giving up this many points in a game because of the backdoor cover possibility, but I don’t think it’s going to matter in this case. Gonzaga has looked to be on another level all season, and Pacific has seen its season fall apart. The Tigers can defend and hit free throws, but that’s about it.
However, the best play on the board is probably the under. Pacific is the one team that held Gonzaga under 70 points this year, and the Tigers’ lack of scoring themselves suggests that the under is about 20 points higher than where it should be. I’m taking the under in this one for sure, and I’ll pair it with Gonzaga for the cover, as I don’t think Pacific is capable of staying in this game for long.