No. 23 BYU vs. No. 2 Gonzaga
Line: Gonzaga -4.5
Where: Marriott Center
When: Saturday, 2/22, at 10:00 p.m. ET
Now that No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 23 BYU have survived their look-ahead spots from Thursday night, they can focus on each other for Saturday’s key WCC showdown in Provo.
Gonzaga took care of business as a 13-point home favorite in the first meeting of the year on Jan. 18, but BYU was without Yoeli Childs, its leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. In fact, four of the Cougars’ seven losses have come without Childs.
The Bulldogs (27-1, 13-1 WCC) are off of Thursday’s 71-54 home win over San Francisco. This was a misleading final score and improbable spread cover for Mark Few’s bunch. Put differently, it was an unfathomable Bad Beat for gamblers who supported the Dons as 16.5-point road underdogs.
Gonzaga is sitting atop the West Coast Conference standings, while the Cougars (22-7, 11-3) are in second place. The Bulldogs extended their winning streak to 19 games, but it wasn’t easy.
In fact, the Dons jumped out to a 31-22 halftime lead. However, after a stern “talking to” from Few, Gonzaga held San Francisco scoreless until it finally got a bucket with 13:26 left in the second half.
Th nation’s top-scoring team produced 49 points in the second half, outscoring the Dons by 26 points in the final 20 minutes. Corey Kispert inserted the spread-covering dagger with 1.5 seconds left.
BYU dealt with a similar struggle on Thursday night. The Cougars played host to Santa Clara, looking to extend their winning streak to seven games.
It did not come easily, despite being favored by 14.5 points. Santa Clara tied the game at 66-66 with 5:37 remaining, which is when BYU went on a 15-3 run to take command. The Cougars wound up winning 85-75, but they failed to cover the spread.
Childs played a large role. The senior forward recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Childs leads BYU with 20.8 PPG and 8.6 RPG.
Senior guards Jake Toolson and TJ Haws have been reliable scoring options as well, with both players scoring around 15 PPG. Toolson shoots 46.0 percent from beyond the arc and has drained a team-high 74 made 3-pointers.
Gonzaga counters with the nation’s best scoring offense. The Bulldogs have seven players scoring in double figures, led by Filip Petrusev’s 17.5 PPG and 8.0 RPG. Kispert is adding 13.9 PPG and senior forward Killian Tillie is scoring at a 13.5 PPG clip.
Senior guard Admon Gilder, a grad transfer from Texas A&M, is scoring 10.8 PPG off the bench. Gonzaga’s explosive offense has led to nine of its last 10 games going ‘over’ the total, including each of its last five road contests. BYU has been shaded to the ‘over’ as well, with nine of its last 13 cashing in high-scoring affairs. However, 14 of the last 20 head-to-head meetings between the Bulldogs and Cougars have gone ‘under.’
Gonzaga is 5-0 ATS in its last five games against BYU, but the Bulldogs are 2-4 ATS in their last six games this season. They are +800 ‘chalk’ to win the NCAA Tournament at DraftKings.
The Pick: BYU +4.5
BYU is 13-6 ATS in its last 19 games. Mark Pope’s team matches up much better with Childs in the lineup. Not only is he the Cougars’ best player, but he’s also an integral part of slowing down Gonzaga’s high-powered offensive attack.
BYU has been playing much better since he returned to the court, covering the spread at a high rate. The Cougars and their fan base have been anticipating this game for several weeks, which means the atmosphere is going to be top notch. They are 13-1 at home this season, with the only setback coming (sans Childs) in a 76-71 decision against undefeated San Diego State in November. The Bulldogs have failed to cover the spread in four of their last six games, even when including the lucky cover on Thursday.