#10 Gonzaga (13-1) at Pepperdine (8-5)
We head out west to Malibu, California to a place that the 10th ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs love to visit, Firestone Fieldhouse. There's no question that Gonzaga has owned the Pepperdine Waves. Gonzaga has won their last 22 consecutive matchups with Pepperdine by an average of 19.5 points. Now, that's pure domination!
Gonzaga is coming off of a strong road victory against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who were ranked 22nd in the nation previous to this matchup. Gary Bell Jr. hit a 3 pointer with 35.7 seconds left that gave Gonzaga the lead while 7 foot forward Kelly Olynyk scored all 21 of his points in the 2nd half to give Gonzaga a 69-68 victory.Not only that, the Bulldogs have beaten the Waves 10 consecutive times at Firestone Fieldhouse. This game is a simple inter- conference warmup.
Gonzaga ranks 14th in points in the nation and 2nd in field goal percentage. Pepperdine will be in for a long night.
The Waves are coming off of a 60-59 victory over Fresno Pacific. Freshman forward, Stacy Davis, is coming off of a strong 18 point, 9 rebound performance against Fresno Pacific. Along with leading scorer Lorne Jackson, these two players will need to put up career games against the Bulldogs at home to have any chance in this game.
Gonzaga is a huge 16 point betting odds favorite on the road. Look for the Bulldogs to make a splash in Malibu as they blast Pepperdine out of the building.
Free Pick - Gonzaga -16
#2 Michigan (13-0) at Northwestern (9-4)
The genetic pool of current Michigan talent such as Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr has managed to carry on. Both have famous fathers that played in the NBA and were quite successful. Now, the offspring are making a name themselves as they're part of a Michigan team that appears to be a future 1 or 2 in the March Madness bracket.
At 6 foot 6, Hardaway Jr. is a lot taller than his 6 foot father and has improved his game every season at Michigan. He averages 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Currently, he has an ankle injury and his status for the Big Ten opener remains uncertain. I expect him to play. He sat out the last game and the injury was said to not be serious.
He's only a sophomore!!
I'm talking about leading scorer, point guard, Trey Burke. He might not have a famous father, but someone must have taught him well on the fundamentals of basketball.
Burke is a superstar in the making and the leader of this team. He can put up a big game offensively and get others involved consistently. On the season, Burke leads the Wolverines at 17.8 points, 7.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds a game on a sizzling 53.6% from the field. Burke is coming off of a 22 point and 11 assist effort against Central Michigan. He was nearly perfect as he shot 9 of 12 from the field. Look for a big game out of Trey Burke tonight.
Northwestern is a team that can play solid defense, holding 4 opponents to 50 points or less this season, but they're a bit inconsistent. The Wildcats will be without their leading scorer, senior guard Reggie Hearn, who has a twisted ankle. Northwestern will have to account for 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and a lot of energy on the court from the senior. This will be tough to overcome.
I put Michigan in the same class as Duke. Until otherwise proven, both of these teams are unstoppable. Take the Wolverines to cover the double digit spread for your pick, as they attempt to make an impression in the Big Ten opener.
Free Pick - Michigan -11