When it comes to teams facing potential season-defining weeks, Saint Mary’s sits atop the list. First up for the Gaels is a visit from the BYU Cougars to close out Thursday’s college basketball odds card.
BYU Cougars vs. Saint Mary’s Gaels
Thursday, January 14, 2021 – 11:00 PM EST at University Credit Union Pavilion
Owning the same 9-3 season records and both sitting 0-1 in West Coast Conference play, BYU and Saint Mary’s also share the struggle of getting on the floor with any regularity in league action due to cancellations caused by the virus. The Cougars and Gaels each had their first two WCC games called off against the same opponents, Pepperdine and San Diego, creating extended layoffs.
Night owls can tune in to ESPN2 for the broadcast, the rest of us setting their DVRs for viewing on Friday morning. This one officially opened as an NCAAB pick, with BetOnline adjusting their early overnight to Saint Mary’s -1. The total is sitting on 133.
Idle Cougs Blown Out by Zags Last Week
Mark Pope’s cagers will be hitting the floor for just the second time since a couple of days before Christmas, and there’s just no way a team can get into any kind of rhythm with such a schedule. That’s especially true for a Cougars team that entered the season trying to work in six transfers after losing four of their top five scorers from a solid 2019-20 squad.
Sitting idle for more than two weeks, BYU had three successive WCC opponents cancel on them after Pacific followed Pepperdine and San Diego last week. Desperate to get on the floor, the Cougars agreed to travel to Gonzaga last Thursday to take in the top-ranked Bulldogs in a shuffle on the slate. As expected, BYU was well off its game early and managed to make just a single bucket in the first seven minutes of the 86-69 loss. Bettors who got in on the opening 18½-point spread at most betting websites managed to return to the pay window in the loss, while those who took the Cougars -17 at the close only managed a push. The bench outscored the starters, 39-30, and five of the 16 turnovers came during the game’s opening four minutes. They did look sharper in the final 11 minutes of the game, but by then, their fate was sealed.
Gaels 2-4 ATS Last 6 at Home
What makes this game so crucial for Saint Mary’s, and the week so important for Randy Bennett’s bunch is having Gonzaga follow BYU into town for a Saturday showdown. Assuming neither team faces the dreaded COVID-19 protocols and the game is played as scheduled, we’re also planning to include that one in our NCAA basketball pick lineup. Still, a loss on Thursday leads to the very real possibility of the Gaels beginning conference play 0-3.
Saint Mary’s also looked out of synch when taking the floor last Saturday against Santa Clara following a 10-day break between games. Favored by 9, the Gaels found themselves in a dogfight the whole way before falling, 66-64. It was a struggle just to hit 39% (23-59) from the field, but they still had a chance to win it with a 2-point lead late before the Broncos hit a 3 and a free throw in the closing seconds.
Saint Mary’s Has Won Last 6 in Moraga Taking into account the entire history between the Cougars and Gaels, it’s Saint Mary’s that owns 16-15 overall bragging rights. Brigham Young won eight of the first 10 matchups prior to joining the WCC in 2011, while the Gaels have the 13-8 lead as conference foes. Last year’s regular season meetings were split with the home teams winning but the underdog visitors covering. They also met in the semifinals of the WCC Tournament, one of just a handful of those events played last March, and Saint Mary’s pulled off a minor 51-50 upset.
It was just a little more than a year ago when they got together in Moraga, the Gaels scoring an 87-84 decision in overtime after blowing a 9-point lead with a little more than four minutes to go in regulation. Both of the regular season clashes went past the totals, though the ‘under’ has cashed in eight of the last 11.
On a neutral floor, I would expect the Cougars to be favored by a bucket or so. The former McKeon Pavilion can be a tough place for visitors because all 3,000 fans are right on top of you. But, of course, the gym will be empty for this one. Give me the point and the Cougars.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.