Best Mid-Major Rivalry? WCC Showdown Finds Saint Mary’s at Gonzaga

Willie Bee

Thursday, January 18, 2018 1:40 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 1:40 PM UTC

A clash between West Coast Conference unbeatens is on Thursday’s college hoops card, and we have a free NCAA basketball pick for the matchup between Saint Mary’s and No. 13 Gonzaga.

NCAAB Season Record: 26-28-1 (-3.40)

Saint Mary's Gaels at No. 13 Gonzaga BulldogsFree NCAAB Pick: Under 151.5Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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The road to the West Coast Conference title goes through Spokane, that much we already know. Gonzaga has won the last five regular-season titles and 15 of 16, with the Bulldogs also claiming tournament crowns 14 times in 18 tries this millennium. Saint Mary’s is the only real threat to at least temporarily detour the WCC through Moraga, and the Gaels come to McCarthey Athletic Center on a 12-game high for Thursday’s big matchup.

With both teams sporting 6-0 conference marks, their showdown is getting prime-time attention from ESPN in the 9 PM (ET) tip. The No. 13 Bulldogs are going off -7½ at Bookmaker where the total is 151½ after opening a couple of points lower.

SMC’s Landale With 11 Double-Doubles On Season

Randy Bennett’s bunch last tasted defeat over the Thanksgiving weekend at the Wooden Classic, the losses to Washington State and Georgia by a combined seven points. Defense was an issue in both contests, though the Gaels have tightened that up a bit to rank 30th in the country allowing 65.4 PPG. Offense has rarely been an issue, Saint Mary’s in the top 50 nationally scoring 80.8 per game and led by junior center Jock Landale (21.7 ppg), who is coming off a 32-point effort in last Saturday’s win at Pepperdine.

Gonzaga suffered a loss at San Diego State just before Christmas, but bounced back to win the first six conference games and cover the NCAA basketball odds in four of those. The Bulldogs connected on at least 52% of their field goals in five of the WCC triumphs, holding opponents under 40% in four of them. The scoring gets spread around with six players averaging double-digits per contest, paced by Johnathan Williams’ 14.1 clip, the senior forward also leading the team in rebounding (7.2 rpg).

Series Trends, Final Thoughts & A Free Pick

Since their first meeting just before Christmas 1971, the Bulldogs and Gaels have met 94 more times with Gonzaga owning a commanding 66-29 advantage. Tonight’s tilt is the 50th since Mark Few took over in Spokane, and the ‘Zags have won 40 of the 49 in that span. The Bulldogs have also won and covered the last four contests, Saint Mary’s last win the series coming at McCarthey in February 2016. The ‘under’ has cashed 11 of the past 13 clashes, and 18 of the last 22 in Spokane.

We’re looking at a couple of teams that know how to put the ball in the net, Saint Mary’s leading the nation in shooting and Gonzaga sixth. Yet when they get together, defensive intensity is turned up a notch, and that’s why my free college basketball pick is an ‘under.’

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