BYU Is The First Test For New No. 1 Gonzaga

BYU Cougars  player in action

Thursday, February 2, 2017 2:39 PM GMT

Unbeaten Gonzaga became the sixth team to be ranked No. 1 this season, and the Bulldogs' first test will be as favorites on the NCAA basketball odds tonight at BYU.

Unless you're Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, life at the top of college polls often proves to be a very temporary existence. Six different college basketball teams have spent time at the top of either the AP or coaches polls this season, and only Villanova has shown it can hold the slot for more than two consecutive weeks.

Gonzaga is the latest to ascend to the top perch, and we'll see if the Bulldogs can make it last beginning Thursday night when they travel to take on the BYU Cougars. The tip comes a little past 11 PM (ET) with ESPN2 carrying the contest from Provo. Overnight action at sportsbooks has been on the Cougars. Gonzaga was initially listed at -11½, that spread down to -8½ this morning with 159½ for the scoreboard mark.

Thursday Begins Tough Conference Stretch For 'Zags

To stay at No. 1, Mark Few knows his Gonzaga (22-0 straight up, 15-4 against the spread) team will have to remain the last undefeated team in the country at least through the regular season schedule. That is a very real possibility considering that not only have the Bulldogs won on the court, they've also been covering the NCAA basketball odds with regularity, sending their backers back to the window 13 of the last 15 trips to the floor. They do have a tough stretch of schedule coming up facing their four closest challengers in the WCC over the course of the next five games.

Brigham Young (16-7 SU, 9-11 ATS) has to win this one to have any chance of catching the Bulldogs in the regular season WCC race. In third place and trailing Gonzaga by three games, Dave Rose's group still has a trip to Spokane for a rematch with the Bulldogs plus a home date with Saint Mary's in a little less than three weeks, so the Cougars have to continue to take care of business at home where they're 5-0 in conference play, 3-2 ATS and 4-1 O/U in those matchups.

Chalk & 'Under' Have Ruled Rivalry

The 17th meeting between the two finds the Bulldogs with an 11-5 advantage over the Cougars. The teams split their regular season clashes last season, each posting road wins before Gonzaga defeated BYU in the semis of the WCC Tournament. In the contest at Marriot Center, Brigham Young was favored by three but Gonzaga turned that spread around with a 71-68 decision that followed an 'under' trend which has seen 10 of the last 13 meetings fail to reach the totals. It bucked a trend for the favorites which are on an 11-3-1 ATS streak.

The movement on the spread is intriguing, to say the least, and my gut is telling me Gonzaga will come out ready to defend its top ranking and get the cover. But I like the series trend on the scoreboard for my free college basketball pick more than the spread, so will play this matchup on the low side of the total.

Free NCAAB Pick: Under 159½

Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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