Pepperdine Waves vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs Pick
Pepperdine Waves (16-17 SU, 19-12 ATS) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-2 SU, 20-11 ATS)
When: Monday, March 11, 2019 – 9 PM ET
Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: PEPP +23/GONZ -23 (Bovada Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 157.5 (5Dimes Sportsbook)
Last Time Out: Pepperdine beat San Francisco 89-72; Gonzaga beat Saint Mary’s 69-55.
Scouting the Waves:
This would be the ultimate Cinderella run if Pepperdine can somehow keep this going. The Waves came in a combined 1-5 against Pacific, Loyola Marymount and San Francisco, but have bested all three of them to earn their spot in the West Coast Conference tournament. Pepperdine’s rise has been fueled by guard Colbey Ross, a sophomore who averages 19.4 points per game and scored 26 against San Francisco to get the Waves into the semifinals. But when those deep shots don’t drop, Pepperdine really struggles, as the Waves average just 32 rebounds a game, meaning most of their possessions are of the one-and-done variety.
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Scouting the Bulldogs:
Gonzaga has really been playing against itself ever since it started conference play, and the Bulldogs are almost through the long slog against teams far below its level without a setback. Gonzaga boasts the league’s best player in Rui Hachimura (20.6 points per game), the league’s best defender in Brandon Clarke (99 blocks on the season) and the nation’s most efficient offense. Even when the Bulldogs chose to focus on their defense, they were successful, holding six of their conference opponents under 60 points. Put simply, this is a team that doesn’t have much of a weakness, at least, not at this level.
Rest vs. action. A team’s first game at their conference tournament is never easy to predict, especially when that team is facing a team that has already gotten a game under its belt. In the case of Pepperdine, thanks to the West Coast Conference’s bizarre bracket, the Waves have already played three games in Las Vegas and have gotten better each time out. Even fatigue isn’t a concern for Pepperdine at this point because the WCC doesn’t play its tournament on Sundays (to accommodate the possibility of Brigham Young reaching a semifinal, as the Cougars refuse to play on Sunday because of religious reasons), so the Waves got a day off to recover following their win over San Francisco.
Conversely, Gonzaga hasn’t played since March 2 against Saint Mary’s. By the time this game tips off, the Bulldogs will have been idle for nine days while the Waves have been in action and gotten themselves comfortable with playing in Orleans Arena. This often means that the underdog is able to build momentum and hang with the favorite for longer than it should, and that’s been the case in several of Gonzaga’s recent tournament openers. The Bulldogs haven’t missed out on the conference tournament final since 1997, but they have struggled with their opener more often than not. In three of the past four instances where Gonzaga was coming off a bye, the Bulldogs’ margin of victory was in single digits.
Pepperdine will Cover if:
The Waves can get hot early from beyond the arc. Ross is a solid shooter, but it’s Eric Cooper who’s the main threat for the Waves from 3-point range. If one or both of them can find some space and hit some shots early in the contest, Pepperdine’s confidence will only grow, and the Waves will have a genuine chance to give Gonzaga a game.
Gonzaga will Cover if:
The Bulldogs can get themselves into the paint and take good shots from the interior. In the teams’ first meeting, 27 of Gonzaga’s 39 made baskets came in the interior, which allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 62.7 percent and cruise to an easy victory. If Gonzaga can penetrate the interior again, Pepperdine won’t have much of a prayer.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Gonzaga is going to win this game because that’s what Gonzaga does. Sixteen of the past 20 titles have gone to the Bulldogs, including the past six, so the idea that Pepperdine could come in and beat what might be Mark Few’s best Gonzaga team yet is borderline preposterous.
But a cover is possible, and I think it happens here. Pepperdine is playing well at the moment and Gonzaga will come in rusty after a long layoff. The Bulldogs will assert their superiority in the second half, but that won’t leave them enough time to build the margin of victory to the high amount of points you’d have to give up with Gonzaga. I expect the Bulldogs’ streak of closer-than-expected games in their first tournament contest to continue here, and I’ll take the Waves in anticipation of a Gonzaga win by about 15 points.