Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga Picks and College Basketball Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/11/2013
In my humble opinion, the Saint Mary's-Gonzaga rivalry is easily one of the 10 best in all of college basketball and surely the best among mid-major conference rivals. It gets overlooked most times because the teams don't usually play until after most of the East Coast goes to bed (and, thus, no SportsCenter highlights until the 1 a.m. Los Angeles version on weekdays). But for the fifth straight season, the Gaels and Zags will face off for the West Coast Conference Tournament championship, Monday night in Las Vegas.
Gonzaga is No. 1 in the nation for the first time in school history -- first school ever to top the rankings from the state of Washington and one of smallest schools ever to do so with an enrollment of about 7,800 -- and should lock up the top seed in the West Region for the NCAA Tournament with a win. I have a feeling the Zags will not get the top overall NCAA seed, however, unless Indiana flames out in the Big Ten Tournament and Duke does the same in the ACC. Saint Mary's has done enough to this point to earn at at-large bid regardless of Monday's outcome but could definitely improve its seeding with an upset. Currently ESPN's Bracketology has the Gaels as a No. 9. I could see them as high as No. 6 with a victory.
Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga Betting Story Lines
Gonzaga (30-2) has won 13 straight games since a loss at Butler on a buzzer-beater in one of the best games of the regular season. The Zags' only other loss was in December at home to then-No. 13 Illinois. Gonzaga had little trouble in its WCC semifinal game with a 66-48 win over Loyola Marymount, the worst team in the conference. Few big-time programs rely more on international talent than the Zags, and their two stars are Germany's Elias Harris and Canadian big man Kelly Olynyk, who has played so well after redshirting last year that he's a lock NBA lottery pick if he declares as expected. The seven-footer is averaging a team-high 17.3 points in just 25.5 minutes while shooting a stellar 65.5 percent from the field, No. 5 nationally. The WCC Player of the Year is also a Wooden Award finalist.
Gonzaga finished unbeaten in conference play for the fourth time in school history and won the regular-season WCC title for the 12th time in the past 13 years. It has reached the WCC Tournament Championship Game for the 15th straight season.
Saint Mary's (27-5) nearly got caught in a trap game Saturday, edging San Diego 69-66 in overtime. The Gaels, who were down double digits midway through the second half, also rely heavily on international players, and their star, Aussie guard Matthew Dellavedova, hit the tying three-pointer (one of only two field goals for him) to send the game into overtime. He is the all-time leading scorer in Saint Mary's history and will set a school record for single-season assists with nine on Monday (mark is 213). Brad Waldow set a career-high with 23 points and tied his career-best with 16 rebounds against San Diego. Pretty good considering he had a front tooth knocked out in the second half due to an inadvertent elbow.
The Gaels were 14-2 in WCC play. Those two losses were both to Gonzaga. On Valentine's Day the Zags won 77-60 in Moraga as 1.5-point underdogs (only other time Gonzaga was a dog was at Oklahoma State). Olynyk had 17 points and seven rebounds as the Bulldogs handed Saint Mary's its worst home loss in eight years. Dellavedova had 22 to lead Saint Mary's, which had just two players in double figures. On Jan. 10 in Spokane, Gonzaga won 83-78 as a nine-point favorite behind 31 from Olynyk. The Zags nearly blew a 20-point second-half lead. Dellavedova missed a potential tying three-pointer with 6.9 seconds left and was 4-for-15 from the field.
Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga NCAA Basketball Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, Gonzaga is a 5.5-point favorite with the total at 137.5. Saint Mary's is 15-12-1 ATS this season (7-3-1 away from home) and 10-12 “over/under” (4-4 on road). Gonzaga is 16-12-2 ATS (5-4-2 on road) and 8-18-1 O/U (3-8 on road).
Saint Mary's has covered five of its past eight after a win. Gonzaga has covered eight straight following an ATS loss, which the Loyola Marymount game was. The Zags are 9-3 ATS in their past 12 neutral-site games. The under is 4-1 in the Bulldogs' past five neutral-site games. The under is 5-1 in Gonzaga's past six after allowing less than 50 points in its previous game.
Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga Picks and Betting Predictions
I guarantee you that Gonzaga remembers last season, when Saint Mary's ended the Bulldogs' 11-year run at the top of the conference by winning both the regular-season and tournament titles. This will be a potentially historic game for Saint Mary's as it has never beaten a No. 1 team and hasn't even played one since 1977. I don't see that happening here, but I do expect a close game, similar to the Gaels' 78-74 overtime win over Gonzaga in last season's WCC final. Take the points and the under.
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