Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs Pick
Texas Tech Red Raiders (29-6 SU, 18-16-1 ATS) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (33-3 SU, 23-13 ATS)
When: Saturday, March 30, 2019 – 6:10 PM ET
Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.
Point Spread: TTU +4/GONZ -4 (Bookmaker)
Total: O/U 137.5
Last Time Out: Texas Tech routed Michigan 63-44; Gonzaga beat Florida State 72-58.
Scouting the Red Raiders:
That was truly frightening if you’re a fan of offense. Texas Tech simply obliterated Michigan by slamming the door on the Wolverine offense and asphyxiating them from 3-point range. Michigan shot a mere 5.3 percent from deep against the Red Raiders, and although the Wolverines’ defense got most of the credit for Michigan’s success this year, the reality is that Michigan is a pretty good offensive basketball squad. Against Texas Tech, it wasn’t. Michigan was terrible against Texas Tech because the Red Raiders played lights-out on defense for the third game in a row.
Now the Red Raiders get their biggest challenge of the season: can they stop the best of the best? Gonzaga’s offensive attack has been phenomenal all season, and when Texas Tech has played power conference foes, it has sometimes struggled, as it did against West Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. Texas Tech has to be as locked in from the word go as it was in its first two performances of this tournament to slow down this offensive juggernaur.
Scouting the Bulldogs:
The ghost of Florida State is gone, and now Gonzaga stands a step away from its second Final Four appearance. The Bulldogs have been a remarkable squad through the past two decades now, and this might be the most talented tam that Mark Few has had during his time in eastern Washington. The Bulldogs can score at will against almost anybody, and they know it.
What sets this Gonzaga apart is the fact that their defense can be every bit as nasty as Texas Tech’s when they need it to be. The Bulldogs don’t try to win with defense every night the way the Red Raiders do, but the 12th best defense in the nation isn’t exactly something to be upset with. The Bulldogs’ defense has been lights out for its opponents all season long, and while the West Coast Conference doesn’t have the kinds of teams the Red Raiders saw in the Big 12, the Bulldogs have held six different opponents to 50 points or less, an impressive accomplishment at any level of college basketball.
Secondary strength. This game is going to be sold as a battle of strength on strength, and it will be exactly that, but the Bulldogs’ defense and the Red Raiders offense will have their own roles to play in this matchup. Texas Tech’s offense ranks 31st in the nation in efficiency, in large part because of Jarrett Culver’s rapid growth as a genuine offensive star. But the Red Raiders are facing a huge challenge at the other end, because they go up against a defense that knows it’s good and knows it doesn’t get the attention that it deserves.
Whichever team is able to pull the best out of the area where they don’t get a lot of praise will go a long way toward dictating the terms and tempo of this game, and the team that does that will likely be in position to let their biggest strength take over the game.
Texas Tech will Cover if:
The Red Raiders can force the Bulldogs to the 3-point arc. The Texas Tech defense is built around taking away the thing that you do best and forcing you to find another way to win the game. In the case of the Bulldogs, that means taking away the interior scoring. Gonzaga shoots over 53 percent from inside but just 36 percent from deep, a number that is only average. Texas Tech needs to force Gonzaga to give up on attacking the interior, which means a fast start is vital if the Red Raiders hope to cover.
Gonzaga will Cover if:
The Bulldogs can force some turnovers. Gonzaga has built its defense around frustrating its opponents, and Texas Tech is a squad that can be forced into mistakes with the right amount of pressure. Gonzaga will have no trouble applying pressure throughout the game, and the way Texas Tech responds will impact what kind of shape this game takes. Gonzaga’s defense is top 10 in steals nationally, and a few extra possessions can make a big difference for the Zags.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
In a battle of the best offense against the best defense, I’m going to have to go with the best defense. Texas Tech has been on another level for the past two weeks, and although its performance in the Big 12 tournament has been forgettable, it appears to have steeled Texas Tech and made the Red Raiders ready for a basketball war.
I love both of these teams, but I have to go with the squad that’s going to get the job regardless of whether shots are dropping. That’s Texas Tech, and I’m taking the Red Raiders for the cover in what should be a fantastic game.
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