Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Santa Clara Broncos Preview and Pick – Point Spread

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Bulldogs vs. Santa Clara Broncos Pick
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Gonzaga Bulldogs (16-3 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) vs. Santa Clara Broncos (9-13 SU, 7-10 ATS), 11:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, January 28, 2009, Leavey Center, Santa Clara, Cal. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Gonzaga -13.5/Santa Clara +13.5
Over/Under: 148

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Ever since Gonzaga’s embarrassing 76-41 loss to Duke at Madison Square Garden on national television, the Bulldogs have won eight straight games and are 5-0 in the West Coast Conference. They have a realistic shot at finishing undefeated in conference play this season, but they have to pass tests like they have on Thursday night - a road game against the Santa Clara Broncos.

Gonzaga is 3-1 on the road this season and has won its last three road games, winning at Portland, St. Mary’s and San Diego. The Zags’ lone road loss was a four-point loss at Michigan State early in the season.

Gonzaga is getting a lot of production this season out of some players that had no experience coming into the season. Freshman forward Elias Harris is averaging 16.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the win at St. Mary’s. Center Robert Sacre has been one of the more impressive centers in the country, averaging 10.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Bol Kong, an excellent outside shooter who is making 48.6 percent of his 3-point attempts, and Kelly Olynyk, a 6-foot-11 freshman who can play almost any position, are giving the Zags some terrific production off the bench.

Other than Harris, Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray are carrying the Zags. Bouldin is averaging 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Gray is averaging 13.9 points per game.

Gonzaga is coming off an 85-69 win at home on Saturday over Loyola Marymount. Harris had 22 points and eight rebounds, Bouldin had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Gray had 18 points. The Zags only made 3-of-16 from beyond the arc but they shot 51.8 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Lions by 11.

Last time these teams met, Gonzaga won 94-59 in the 2009 WCC tournament semifinals.

Santa Clara was expected to be improved this season, but leading scorer Kevin Foster went down with a broken foot and is out for the season. Without Foster, the Broncos have really struggled this season and haven’t even been able to put together a three-game winning streak. They are now 9-13 overall, 1-4 in WCC play, and 5-8 at home. The Broncos have lost five of their last six games and eight of their last 10.

But Santa Clara is coming off a 66-65 road win at San Francisco on Saturday that could have given the Broncos some confidence. Sophomore center Marc Trasolini scored 26 points for the Broncos and Niyi Harrison added 11.

Neither Gonzaga nor Santa Clara is turning the ball over much or forcing many turnovers in conference play, so don’t expect many turnovers in this game. Santa Clara is committing 12 turnovers per game and forcing 11.4 per game in WCC play, while Gonzaga is committing 11.2 turnovers per game in WCC play and forcing only 9.4 per game. Santa Clara is only shooting 26.8 percent from 3-point range in conference play but has only attempted 14 per game. The Zags are holding opponents around 30 percent and making just 31.9 percent of their attempts in conference play. But Gonzaga is getting a ton of easy baskets in conference play, shooting 53.3 percent from the field. The Zags will likely look to pound the ball inside to Sacre and Harris, and Bouldin and Gray will attack the basket off the dribble.

Gonzaga is 4-0 ATS in its last four road games and 6-2 ATS in its last eight games overall. The Broncos are 1-5 ATS in their last six home games and the same record in their last six games as a home underdog. They are 2-12 ATS in their last 14 home games following three or more consecutive road games. The home team is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings between these teams. The over is 5-0 in the last five meetings between these teams at Santa Clara and 15-2 in the last 17 meetings overall between these teams.

Ryno’s Pick: Gonzaga is head and shoulders above the rest of the West Coast Conference and very well may finish undefeated in conference play. But these teams know each other well, so covering a double-digit spread on the road could be tough. The Broncos would have to play out of their minds to win this game but they could keep it respectable, especially with their crowd behind them. Gonzaga should be able to score a lot of points and it will be up to Santa Clara to keep up with the pace. With the over being 15-2 in the last 17 games between these teams, it’s safe to expect a high-scoring affair. Take the over of 148.