Gonzaga Bulldogs vs St. Mary’s Gaels
Betting Spread – Gonzaga -18. Total 143
Time: 9:00 PM EST. Where to Watch – ESPN
Normally, I often dodge these inflated line type games as I hate trying to figure out if a team up 15-20 late will stop their own offense or if the other team will opt not to foul late despite having a practical 0% chance of winning. This spot though does have a favorable door open.
This Gonzaga offense is one of the better D1 offenses that in recent memory. They literally have the 3 best players in the conference all on the same team in the WCC. This offense averages nearly 93 points per game and couples this with elite defense. The nagging issue with Gonzaga yearly though is there really aren’t tested much in conference at all. This creates a bit of an issue when they get pushed to the limit by another elite team in the tourney. May this year be different? Possibly, as this team’s loaded, but only time will tell. In this game though, they draw one of the best defenses in the country in St. Mary’s.
Gonzaga has earned the right to be a near 20 point fav here, but my angle is more towards Gonzaga’s team total under. I got this last night at 79.5 -106 and some books have since bumped this to 80.5 with over steam coming through. The surface level capping would say Gonzaga goes over 79.5 easily. As mentioned, they average 93 ppg, and have scored less than 80 points a grand total of 2 times this season. One of those times though was against the Gaels.
While Gonzaga is money at getting to 80, St Mary’s is money at not giving up 80. St. Mary’s has given up 80 points just once all season and yes it was to Gonzaga. They also played them a separate time where Gonzaga scored 73. I dug through those games and a few things poked out to me. St Mary’s made a dedicated effort to slow the game down to a literal crawl. The Zags got up 54 and 55 shots in both games with only 16 free throw attempts. This can be credited to the fact that St Mary’s allowed a total of 8 offensive rebounds between both games combined to the Zags. Gonzaga is by no means elite on the offense glass (though certainly above average), but eight total offensive rebounds in two games tells me St. Mary’s made a true dedicated effort to ensure no extra 2nd chance opportunities for Gonzaga. Why it’s so hard to play into the 80s vs St. Mary’s is really just that. They are elite at defending the offensive glass, they don’t turn the ball over and they don’t foul. This really limits extra scoring opportunities for their opponents. St. Mary’s is also #1 in the country in assists per field goals made on defense. You really have to earn points vs the Gaels.
When Gonzaga went for 87 in their home match-up vs St Mary’s, they shot better than 61% and 57% from 3. This goes down as the best shooting % vs St. Mary’s all season long by a long shot. Gonzaga shoots better than 61% and still only goes 7 points above 80. It just goes to show the pace of these games between these two. The reason I don’t like the full game under is because the extra pace Gonzaga adds to the game could mean more points than usual for St. Mary’s, but I don’t want to try to predict St. Mary’s offensive performance here. I’d much rather try to predict that Gonzaga won’t shoot 60% against this defense again. This Gonzaga offense is top notch for sure and they shoot 55% as a team, so they certainly could go for 60% again in this spot, but St Mary’s is so stout defensively it would take quite a lot of tough shots to go down.
This is also a conference tournament game so defense often does get elevated. St. Mary’s put on a defensive clinic vs Loyola Marymount who is certainly an above average offense and they won’t be dancing with a loss here. There is next to a 0% chance they win this game, but I think it goes to say their motivation coming in here. An all hands on deck approach on the glass, a dedicated effort to slow this game down to a crawl, and get back right away on defense will force this Gonzaga team to shoot lights out to push this into the 80s. Also, assuming a sub 15-20 point lead late, should also avoid an egregious amount of free throws late. It’s not a fun bet to make here and I’d advise not watching lol, but in this spot, I’ll ride the snail like elite defense to keep Gonzaga outside of the 80s.
JJ’s Best Bet
Gonzaga Team Total UNDER 79.5 -106 (FD)