NCAA Basketball Pick: Gonzaga vs. BYU
No. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs (19-2, 15-6 ATS) vs. BYU Cougars (13-9, 9-13 ATS)
When: Thursday, January 31st, 2019 – 11:00 pm ET
Where: Marriott Center – Provo, UT
Point Spread: GON -14/BYU +14 (GTBets)
Counting NBA and NCAA bets, that is a perfect 7-0 since Saturday night. I’m not usually one to pat myself on the back (I totally am), but I think I have a complete grasp on this handicapping thing now. My advice to you? Fade me. Fade me every night. I’m so due to lose.
In their last game out, the 4-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs won a close, hard-fought game in a 59-point victory over Santa Clara. BYU, on the other hand, was dealing with a far superior St. Mary’s team and managed to upend them in a quasi-upset. With the Bulldogs rolling into town on the hot streak of all hot streaks, they are currently favored by a whopping 14-points over the hometown Cougars with the total set to a mind-boggling 167 points. Did I accidentally stumble into the greatest offensive game ever?
The Size of the Fight in the Bulldog
Let me just preface this by saying that Gonzaga has become, in all essence, a blue blood program, and Mark Few is one of the elite college basketball coaches that we’ve had over the last two decades. With that being said – the conference is a joke. The Zags are one win away from celebrating their 22nd consecutive 20-win season, and they have been to *checks Wikipedia* *squints eyes* one Final Four in that time? The bottom line is that Gonzaga plays in the AFC East of college basketball, and unlike the New England Patriots, they are an easy out in nearly every tournament. You want to be treated like a “blue blood”? Win like a “blue blood”.
Outside of their spotty history, there’s very little to dislike about the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Rui Hachimura is destined for a second basketball life in the NBA, Norvell and Perkins are among the best backcourts in the country, and Brandon Clarke is closing in on a school record for blocked shots in a season. With arguably the best offense in the country, Gonzaga has drowned their last 10 opponents by an average of 36 points, and they’ve demonstrated an ability to keep their foot on the pedal. There aren’t a lot of hoops to jump through to take down BYU. The Bulldogs have an elite starting five, and while BYU has a couple of players, the totality of their talent will outweigh anything the Cougars throw at them. Outside of a hostile environment with the crazy Mormons (I say that with love), Gonzaga should be able to maintain their perfect conference record. But can they blow BYU off of their home floor?
BY-You Miss Jimmer, Don’t You?
The age-old story of a white guy lighting up Provo every season is a college basketball tradition unlike any other, and I was happy to know that BYU kept it in the family this time around by recruiting former BYU star Tyler Haws’ brother. I can’t understate how much I like the idea of the token white shooting guard position at BYU just being handed down from player to player like The Crow. How the hell did we miss out on Mac McClung, BYU? What on Earth possibly went wrong there? Shame on you.
Hopefully, the Haws have another brother come eventually, but for now, T.J is doing a fine job. BYU has a solid 1-2 punch between Haws and junior standout Yoeli Childs, who has averaged 23 points and 9 rebounds in conference play. X’s and O’s-wise, there isn’t much for BYU to lean on. Gonzaga is the number one ranked offense, according to Ken Pom, and the difference between them and the second-best defense is the same as the difference between the second and the tenth. Ultimately, BYU’s burgeoning confidence and their crazy home crowd are going to be the deciding factors when it comes to keeping this game close. As long as BYU takes care of the ball, knocks down some shots and plays solid defense, the fans should do the rest. An upset of a top-5 team on a Thursday night? Sign me up.
There is a lot to like for both teams coming into this game. But I’m a narrative guy and narrate I shall. BYU and Gonzaga have an interesting, checkered history, and BYU is among the few teams in the WCC to give the Zags any consistent trouble. In 2017, the Cougars handed Gonzaga their first and only loss of the regular season in a 79-71 upset. It’s been a mixed bag in terms of results, but the one constant thread is that, for whatever reason, BYU plays the Zags tough, and I love the amount of disrespect being shown with a 14-point line. I hope you West Coast losers enjoy WCC basketball and making money.