Oklahoma Sooners vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Oklahoma Sooners (8-4 SU, 4-6 ATS) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (9-3 SU, 5-4 ATS), 10:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, December 31, 2009, Spokane Arena, Spokane, Wash. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Oklahoma +8.5/Gonzaga -8.5
Over/Under: 150

As the ball gets ready to drop on the East Coast, the Oklahoma Sooners and Gonzaga Bulldogs will be shooting the ball on the West Coast, as the Sooners and Bulldogs battle it out in Spokane on New Year’s Eve.

Gonzaga started off the season strong with a close four-point loss at Michigan State and then three straight wins in the Maui Invitational over Colorado, Wisconsin and Cincinnati to take home the championship of that tournament. After a win over Washington State a week later, the Zags haven’t accomplished much since then. They lost a close one to Wake Forest at home and then got embarrassed by 35 points to Duke at Madison Square Garden. In their only game since that terrible loss to Duke, the Zags won 94-52 over Eastern Washington in their last game on Monday.

Oklahoma has been one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball this season. The Sooners lost three straight games early in the season to VCU, San Diego and Houston. They rebounded with some decent wins over Arkansas, Arizona and Utah, but they again came down to earth with an 89-74 loss to UTEP in their last game on December 21.

The biggest problems for the Sooners are their defense and their shot selection. They are allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field. In the loss to UTEP, the Miners shot 58 percent from the field. Against Houston, the Sooners scored 93 points but lost the game because they couldn’t get defensive stops and the Cougars reached 100. They also allowed UTEP to shoot 10-for-16 from beyond the arc. Oklahoma, on the other hand, settled for 32 3-point attempts against UTEP, which accounts for more than half of their overall shot attempts, and they made just nine of them. Willie Warren and Cade Davis are pretty good 3-point shooters, but 32 attempts are ridiculous.

Gonzaga shoots 48 percent from the field and holds its opponents to 39 percent. The Sooners have to step up their defense and choose higher percentage shots in order to hang with the Zags in this one. Both teams are close to even on turnover differential and the Zags have the rebounding edge with a +4.3 average on the boards. Gonzaga’s biggest strength is perhaps its ability to get to the free throw line. The Zags are averaging more than 31 free throw attempts per game, which is a huge advantage against any team they play.

Oklahoma doesn’t have a lot of depth down low. Tiny Gallon is the only real capable big man for the Sooners, but they also have Ryan Wright and Andrew Fitzgerald to fill space. Gonzaga fields a big team with 7-foot center Robert Sacre, 6-foot-7 forward Elias Harris, 6-foot-11 wing Kelly Olynyk, 6-foot-6 Bol Kong, 6-foot-6 Mangisto Arop, 7-foot-5 center Will Foster, and 6-foot-5 guards Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray. At least a few of those players will always be on the court together, giving the Zags a significant size advantage. If they use that size to their advantage and attack the rim like they have been doing, they could get Gallon in foul trouble and make it even easier to score inside. Because of the size disadvantage, the Sooners may be forced to play a zone, in which case Bouldin (40 pct 3-pt), Gray (38.2 pct 3-pt) and Kong (62.5 pct 3-pt) could get open and knock down outside jumpers.

The Sooners are 8-21-1 ATS in their last 30 games as an underdog and 7-20-1 ATS in their last 28 games as a road underdog. The Sooners are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games and 1-4 ATS in their last five games following an ATS loss. Gonzaga is 4-9 ATS in its last 13 games following and ATS win and 2-7 ATS in its last nine games against the Big 12. The under is 5-1 in Oklahoma’s last six road games. Oklahoma has failed to cover its last two games and the total has gone over in its last three games. Gonzaga has only covered once in its last five games and the total has gone over in four of those five games.

Ryno’s Pick: After losing by 35 on a national stage to Duke, the Zags are on a purpose to play much better. Everyone knows they are much better than they were that day, so this talented team needs to play well and pick up a win in this game. Oklahoma simply isn’t a very good team this year. It would be shocking if the Sooners turn their season around and reach the NCAA tournament. This game isn’t a true home game for Gonzaga, as it’s being played down the road at Spokane Arena, but it’s still a home crowd for the Zags. Expect them to come out aggressive and attack this weak Oklahoma defense. Sacre should have a big night against a weak Oklahoma front line. The Sooners may hang for a little bit, but Gonzaga will run away with it in the second half. Take Gonzaga -8.5.