Defensive-Minded San Diego To Hang Tough With Gonzaga

Rainman M.

Thursday, February 22, 2018 1:59 PM UTC

Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 1:59 PM UTC

San Diego hosts No. 6 Gonzaga tonight at 9 ET on ESPN2. The visiting Bulldogs are favored by 12 points and the game total is set at 138.5. Can the Toreros, in their final home game of the season, sweep Gonzaga ATS?

Thursday College Basketball: No. 6 Gonzaga vs. San Diego Free NCAAB Pick: San Diego +12Best Line Offered: Heritage

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Over the offseason, the Toreros worked on reshaping themselves defensively. They are no longer the team that surrendered 96 points, including thirteen three-pointers, to Gonzaga last February. Last year, the Toreros ranked eighth in the WCC in KenPom's defensive efficiency and 10th in opposing three-point percentage. This year, they feature the WCC's fourth-best defense and top-ranked perimeter defense. San Diego boasts the smallest proportion of three-point attempts allowed and ranks third in opposing three-point percentage. For example, the Toreros covered twice against Saint Mary's, the WCC's most efficient three-point shooting team, limiting them to a combined 7-for-23 from three.

SD's ability against strong three-point shooting teams is significant against Gonzaga, which averages the WCC's third-highest proportion of three-pointers attempted and has the fourth-highest point distribution from three. In their four SU losses, as in their earlier ATS loss vs. San Diego, the Bulldogs were limited from three, attempting more than 20 threes and converting less than 33 percent of them. In three of those matchups they faced balanced defenses that are strong both in and outside the arc. Against Florida, they simply bricked a lot of threes.

San Diego's defense is also tough inside the arc, ranking second in the WCC in opposing two-point percentage. Sixth-ranked Gonzaga (25-4 SU, 11-16-1 ATS) certainly boasts some stars who can score inside. But SD's interior defense also has depth. Big men Isaiah Pineiro, Juwan Gray and Yauhen Massalski are strong shot blockers, Pineiro and Gray ranking in the top 400 in block percentage. In the first matchup, a 79-69 Gonzaga win on February 1 in which San Diego covered as 19.5-point underdogs, the Zags were limited to 42.2 percent inside the arc and were blocked four times.

Offensively, the Toreros (17-11 SU, 10-13-1 ATS) attempt the most threes in the WCC and rank second in three-point shooting. They'll succeed against a statistically average Gonzaga perimeter defense. Guard Isaiah Wright and guard/forward Tyler Williams rank in the top 350 in the category. Guard Olin Carter is 8-for-20 from three in his past two games vs Gonzaga.

A team on the rise such as San Diego, which is a winning team this season as opposed to last season, is extra motivated to prove itself against the known juggernauts, easily covering in its three games thus far against St. Mary's and Gonzaga. I don't expect the same energy from the Zags, who have been slacking ATS, to the tune of an eight-game non-cover streak from January 13 to February 8. They then crushed the one opponent they needed to worry about, St. Mary's, covered against a severely injury-ridden LMU team and didn't cover vs. Pepperdine. The Zags had started conference play steamrolling everybody, but now seem to be content with sliding into tournament play. Guard/forward Zach Norvell and forward Killian Tillie, for instance, have been dealing with recent bumps and bruises.

Gonzaga is 0-6-1 ATS in conference play when favored by between 10 and 20 points on the college basketball odds board. San Diego will prolong that trend tonight on our NCAAB picks. For those who like to play the total, the "under" has hit in six straight Gonzaga games and in the past three meetings between those teams. You could play it straight, tease it or, if you dare, parlay it with the spread.

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Arrive early and @USD_TPB will get the @USDBullpit ready for the game with free gear and paint.

Also » free food, music, games and a mechanical bull on the plaza.#GoToreros

— USD Toreros (@USDToreros) February 21, 2018

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