Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Saint Mary’s
Line: Gonzaga -6
Where: McCarthey Athletic Center, Spokane, Washington
When: Saturday, 2/25 at 10:00 p.m. ET
One of the biggest games in West Coast Conference history will take place in primetime on Saturday night when No. 12 Gonzaga plays host to No. 15 Saint Mary’s.
ESPN’s College GameDay will return to Spokane for the first time since 2009 and will feature a WCC game for the first time since the No. 1 Bulldogs beat the No. 20 Gaels in 2017 (and the second time ever). Saint Mary’s has already clinched at least a share of the conference title, but it can take sole possession of the title with a win in Saturday night’s finale.
The Gaels have not won an outright conference title since 2011-12 and have not beat Gonzaga twice in a season since 2015-16.
“It’s a much-anticipated matchup,” Gonzaga forward Ben Gregg said Thursday. “They got us last time and we’re hungry. It’s going to be a good environment, but we’ve got to focus on the game plan ad not get caught up in all that stuff.”
Gonzaga has been able to stay in the hunt for at least a share of an 11th-straight WCC regular-season title since losing to the Gaels in overtime on Feb. 4, winning five straight games in the three weeks since then. Neither team seemed to get caught looking ahead to this showdown, as the Zags beat San Diego by 25 points and Gaels beat Pacific by 31 points on Thursday.
Offshore sportsbook BetOnline opened Gonzaga as a 5.5-point favorite on Friday afternoon after being a 3-point underdog in the first meeting. The total opened at 141.5, which is four points higher than the total from the Feb. 4 contest that cruised ‘over’ 137.5.
By late Saturday morning, most spots had the Bulldogs favored by six with the total down to 140.5 points.
Gonzaga has been rolling on the offensive end since late January, going ‘over’ the total in six straight games. The Bulldogs have cracked 88 points in six of their last seven games, with the lone exception being the first tilt with Saint Mary’s.
They were able to maintain that momentum and keep themselves alive for a share of the conference title with their blowout win over San Diego on Thursday. Veteran forward Drew Timme scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds—he needs to average 19.3 points over his next three games to break the school’s all-time scoring record.
While Timme commands most of the attention from the media, guard Julian Strawther has been the key for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have gone 16-0 this season when he has scored at least 14 points and have won 146 straight games when leading by double digits at halftime.
Meanwhile, Logan Johnson scored 29 points in the final home game of his career for Saint Mary’s on Thursday, as the Gaels rolled to an 83-52 win over Pacific. They have now gone two straight seasons without losing a home game in conference play, reaching the 25-win mark for the 12th time in the last 16 seasons.
“It’s nice that we were able to clinch a share of it on our home court,” Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett said. “I wanted to make sure they would get recognized and win out on their home court the right way…For them to be able to win this thing on our home court, I definitely wanted the crowd to be able to show their appreciation.”
Saint Mary’s has not been slacking on the road either, winning seven of its last eight road games. The Gaels have only notched three wins in their last 20 trips to Gonzaga, though. The Bulldogs are 13-6-1 ATS in their last 20 Saturday home games and are 79-1 in their last 80 home games.
The pick: Saint Mary’s +6.5 (Westgate SuperBook)
I felt like I got robbed when I grabbed Gonzaga as a 3.5-point underdog and it failed to cover in an overtime loss the first time around, so I am hoping I don’t feel the same way after the rematch on Saturday night. This is just too many points to give Saint Mary’s, regardless of where this game is being played. The Gaels have one of the most underrated freshmen in college basketball (Aiden Mahaney) to go along with a veteran in Johnson and an experienced head coach. Gonzaga has been overvalued by the betting market throughout the campaign, covering at an 11-17 clip. I expect this game to live up to the hype, and I am happy to get two possessions with the underdogs.