St. Mary’s Gaels vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs Preview and Pick

St. Marys Gaels (24-4) +6.5, 139 O/U at Gonzaga Bulldogs (22-6) -6.5, 139 O/U, McCarthey Athletic Center, Spokane, Wash., 8 PM Eastern, Saturday
by Badger of

There has never been a bigger game in the West Coast Conference then the St. Marys-versus-Gonzaga matchup Saturday in Spokane, Wash., and there may never be one this big again.

When the 25th-ranked Gaels travel to take on the 24th-ranked Bulldogs in the McCarthey Athletic Center, not only will the winner take home the WCC regular season crown (both are 11-1 in WCC play) and earn the No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament. But for the first time ever in WCC history, the game will feature two teams ranked in the Associated Press top-25 poll.

The Zags have become accustomed to the pressure of these historic games, after all, they have already clinched their 11th straight 20-win season. All of their success has allowed them to finally be considered a major basketball program, graduating from the mid-major status they started at when they were upsetting bigger programs around the country. The Zags also come into the game with a five-game win streak, with their last loss coming in the game versus the Gaels.

But the pressure of the big game will be a new experience for St. Marys. The Gaels, who burst onto the scene this season with huge early-season wins over Oregon, Seton Hall and Drake, were still considered by many to be a fluke. But when the Gaels beat Gonzaga in a hard-fought 89-85 overtime victory back on February 4th, it made their now 24-4 record and top-25 ranking legit.

College Basketball Sportsbooks opened the game with Gonzaga as a surprising large 6.5-point favorite, with a total of 139. The early moneyline listing at some of the offshore sportsbooks have the Zags as -300 favorites, with St. Marys listed at +260 underdogs.

While some may consider the spread of 6.5 points too large for two relatively close teams, those same people probably dont realize how well the Bulldogs play on their home floor. Gonzaga sports a 50-2 overall record on the McCarthey Center floor (it opened the 2004-05 season).

Gonzaga also hasnt lost to St. Marys at home in their last 12 meetings, and hasnt allowed the Gaels to sweep the season series since the 1995 season.

In the first meeting this season, St. Marys super freshman guard Patrick Mills scored the Gaels final 1o points in regulation, then five more in overtime to put the Gaels in the drivers seat. Mills finished with 23 points (he leads the team with a 14.3 ppg ave.) despite 5-of-15 shooting, but he got considerable help from Todd Golden who went 6-for-6 from 3-point range and ended with 19 points.

Diamon Simpson, the Gaels best scoring option after Mills, ended with a double-double in the first game with 10 points and 11 rebounds.Gonzagas Jeremy Pargo led the Bulldogs in the first game with 27 points and eight assists, and Austin Daye added 15 points, but the Zags had three players foul out of the game in the extra session and played short-handed down the stretch.

The rematch tonight should be fun to watch, as Gonzaga averages 82.1 points per game in WCC action and has won all but one of their conference games with a +19.7 scoring margin. St. Marys counters with an offense that scores 76.7 points per game with a +14.4-point scoring margin.

Neither team is a sure bet, although both have made bettors money this season. St. Marys is 14-10-1 ATS this season, but they have fallen on hard times lately with just a 2-3 ATS record in their last five games overall. Gonzaga meanwhile is 15-13 ATS for the year, and a strong 4-1 ATS in their last five.

St. Marys has covered the spread in three of the last four games head-to-head, including two of the last three on the road at Gonzaga. However, the Bulldogs must really like playing on weekends, as they sport an impressive 20-6 ATS record in their last 26 games played on Saturday.

Badgers Pick: Gonzaga is one hot team right now, and they seem to be peaking at just the right time. Meanwhile the Gaels have struggled on the road all year and will be facing pressure in this game they have never seen before. Not only do I like the Bulldogs to cover the number in this one, but I also like the under. Both teams will struggle out of the gate with their shooting, which is usually the case in high-pressure game like this one. Plus, both teams are very familiar with each other and fully capable of taking away their best scoring options. Take the under of 139. And take Gonzaga minus the points.