Santa Clara Broncos vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs Preview and Pick

Santa Clara Broncos (14-14), +14 o/u, 127 @ Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-6), -14, o/u 127, McCarthey Athletic Center, Spokane, WA, 11:30 p.m. Eastern, Monday
by Oracle of Predictem.com

Once again, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are proving to the country that the mid-major prowess goes through Spokane.

With a West Coast Conference win against St. Mary’s on Saturday (88-76), the 24th ranked Bulldogs have a chance to clinch their sixth straight outright WCC title when they host Santa Clara at McCarthey Athletic Center on Monday in a game televised on ESPN2.

Gonzaga has had an up and down season, starting the year ranked No. 14. After a sluggish December, Gonzaga found themselves completely out of the Top 25 and for the first time in a long time, weren’t the cream of the mid-major crop.

However, that all changed with their current 6-game winning streak and 14-2 record since falling out of the ranks.

Gonzaga is tough to beat at home, winning nine straight in Spokane and 13 of 14 on the year. In the meantime, Santa Clara is the epitome of a .500 team, having a 14-14 overall record. The Broncos haven’t won or lost more than three games in a row all year long.

Depending on where bettors look, the spread has already moved for this contest, opening with Gonzaga favorites -15.5. That line has already been trimmed a full point with the books favoring Gonzaga -14.5. The over/under opened at 129, but has slipped down to 127.

Gonzaga has had a tendency to be good to bettors this year with a 16-13 mark ATS, including an 8-6 home record.

The Bulldogs thrive at home, as they are 51-3 at the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened up in 2004. The only WCC team to beat Gonzaga at home in the past four years?

Santa Clara: The Broncos may not be a powerhouse by any means, but they seem to play Gonzaga tough. Take this year’s contest, for example, when Santa Clara took Gonzaga into double overtime before losing 87-82. The two teams squared off three times last year with Santa Clara winning in Spokane before falling to the Bulldogs by eight and nine points in the other two match ups.

The Broncos are coming off a tough loss at Portland on Saturday, 64-58. Leading scorer John Bryant (18.2 points per game), was held to just 9 points on 1-of-6 shooting. The 6-foot 11-inch center played a big role in Santa Clara’s first contest against Gonzaga, scoring 22 points and grabbing six rebounds. He also leads the team in rebounds (9.6) and blocks (2.2).

Mitch Henke stepped up for the Broncos with Bryant struggling, scoring a season-high 21 points against Portland. Henke is averaging 18 points while shooting 64.3 percent from the field - including 62.5 percent from 3-point range - in his last three games.

Gonzaga’s balanced attack is led by Matt Bouldin and his 13.1 points per game. Jeremy Pargo (11.9), Austin Daye (11.1) and Josh Heytvelt (10.3) round out the rest of the Bulldogs in double figures. Heytvelt (6-11) and Daye (6-10) will have to try to contain Bryant in the paint. If either of these two gets into foul trouble, look for a close game down the stretch.

In the meantime, Gonzaga holds opponents to 39.2% shooting good enough for 19th in the country - and give up just 63.9 points per game.

Santa Clara is anything but an offensive juggernaut, scoring just 64.3 points per game 266th in the country. Contradicting that stat, though, is the fact that they shoot 49% from the field, which is 10th best in the country. This simply means Santa Clara can’t get off as many shots as its opponents. They were out rebounded 31-23 in their loss to Gonzaga earlier this year and only grab 7.6 offensive boards per game compared to Gonzaga’s 10.1.

During their six game winning streak, there are a bunch of trends that favor Gonzaga ATS. They’re 4-0 at home and 5-1 in their last six games ATS as a favorite. They’re also 4-0 in their last four games when they are more than 13-point favorites.

The trends really don’t favor the Broncos in this showdown with a 1-4 record ATS in their last 5 road games as an underdog.

With both teams having solid defenses, the over/under is set rather low. Bettors may be interested to know that the over is 11-1 in the past 12 head-to-head clashes between these two WCC teams, including 6-0 in Spokane.

Gonzaga has been hot lately and has a lot to play for on Monday night. Santa Clara, on the flip side, is only HOPING upset and with very little chance of that happening.

Oracle’s Pick: Although these two teams always seem to play evenly, look for Gonzaga to come out on all cylinders early. The line is bound to move some more, so bettors be aware. Still take Gonzaga minus the points though if your able to lay -15 or less.