Gonzaga takes aim at its win number 16 in a row Thursday night in Santa Clara. Victory is imminent, but can the Bulldogs cover as hefty road chalk on the college basketball odds board?
Cue the theme to Rawhide - Rollin', rollin', rollin', keep them doggies rollin, rawhide!
The doggies in this case are the Gonzaga Bulldogs who haven't lost a basketball game in nearly two months. They'll begin what should be a relatively easy weekend road trip at Santa Clara against the Broncos Thursday night in search of their 16th-straight win, and for once get national treatment from ESPN2 in the 11 PM (ET) broadcast.
Well, at least the part of the nation that isn't either: A) a wuss and can't stay awake, or; B) oblivious to what a great team Gonzaga has this year. The Bulldogs are double-digit favorites for the 11th-straight game, hoops bettors giving up 17 this time, and SBR's live NCAA basketball odds will have a total later Thursday morning..
As one might imagine, Gonzaga has dominated this series overall and recently. The Bulldogs have built a 52-32 advantage against the Broncos thanks largely to winning 19 of the last 20. Santa Clara's only win in that span came about four years ago at Leavey Center, an 85-71 decision as 8 point home chalk.
That game went 'over' the total, and so did the previous meeting this season in Spokane. Gonzaga dominated nearly every phase of the game in a 79-57 home win on January 10, yet still didn't quite cover a -24½ point closer on the odds.
Zags In Control Of West Coast Conference
Yeah, I know, there's a lot of basketball left to be played on the regular season slate, but other than Kentucky, Gonzaga (22-1 straight up, 11-7-2 against the spread) has been the only other team to prove itself a true Final Four threat at this point. The argument's always there that the WCC is not as good top-to-bottom as the 'Power 5' now; still, it's tough to argue against the Zags deserving a high seed year in, year out.
Let's take the current 15-game win streak, for example. In the 14 games that had odds (1 scrimmage vs. Texas Southern), the Bulldogs have won by an average of 16.57 PPG and been favored by 16.67. Talk about your fine lines, pun intended with Gonzaga 7-6-1 ATS during the streak.
Anyone who still may be looking for just how much fatter the lines are on Gonzaga than other teams in conference play need look no further than what has happened in a 10-0 start to the WCC schedule. The Bulldogs are shooting 51.6% from the field in league games, better than any team in the old 'Power 6' conferences, yet just 5-4-1 ATS.
Broncos Come Home After Losing Road Trip
We'll cut Santa Clara (11-12 SU, 10-10-1 ATS) some slack for a decent strength of schedule, made increasingly difficult by starting the conference slate with road games at the Big 3 -- Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU -- among the first six games on the conference slate. But the fact remains that Kerry Keating's club has yet to post a win that really stands out.
About the closest the Broncos have come is covering the 24½ point gift against Gonzaga earlier, or pushing a +7 point line to Tennessee in the opener of the Orlando Classic last November.
The most impressive thing about Gonzaga has been the balanced scoring among what has so far been a very steady and reliable 7-man rotation at Mark Few's disposal. Kevin Pangos was off his mark in last Saturday's win over Memphis, but everyone else filled in for him, especially Domantas Sabonis who posted a double-double off the bench. The smart thing to do might be to take advantage on the extra juice the Bulldogs are burdened with and take the points, but I'm going with the heavy chalk line instead for my free NCAA basketball pick.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Gonzaga -17 at The Greek
Season: 39-34 (+1.6)