Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Saturday.
The underdogs appear to hold value in a great early-season Top 10 matchup of unbeaten teams when the ninth ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-0, 0-0 away) pay a visit to the third ranked Arizona Wildcats (7-0, 4-0 home) at the McKale Center in Tucson, AZ at 5:15 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Gonzaga as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +5 with odds of -103.
Zags the Preseason NIT Champions
Both of these teams are 7-0, although this is the first true road game of the young season for Gonzaga. This is not the first time the Bulldogs have left the state of Washington though, as they won the NIT Season Tip-Off championship traveling all the way east to beat Georgia in the semifinals and St. John’s for the championship in a semi-road game at Madison Square Garden. Along with an early win vs. SMU, Gonzaga has three wins vs. the Pomeroy Top 50.
Arizona is the higher ranked team in the polls here, but the Wildcats have been the winning NCAA Basketball pick just once vs. a Pomeroy Top 50 team this year, although to be fair that win came vs. 18th ranked San Diego State in Hawaii, which is ranked considerably higher than the three such teams that Gonzaga has beaten. Arizona has faced only one other team ranked in the Pomeroy Top 100, with that being 71st ranked Kansas State.
It is also noteworthy that Arizona beat San Diego State by just two points and Kansas State by four, while the Bulldogs have had an easier time vs. the better opponents they have faced beating Georgia and SMU both by double-digits and St. John’s by seven in New York.
Gonzaga More Efficient on Both Ends
Gonzaga has revenge in mind here after getting blown out by Arizona in the third round of the NCAA Tournament 84-61 back in March. Arizona lost quite a bit of talent from that top-seeded team to the NBA however, while Gonzaga has come back better than ever based on its early +29.4-point winning margin so far this early season.
And you may be surprised to learn that the Bulldogs are ranked higher in effective field goal percentage both offensively and defensively than Arizona, despite the Wildcats being ranked higher on the polls and on Pomeroy overall, where Arizona is ranked seventh and Gonzaga is ranked 11th.
That may have to more with Arizona beginning the season fifth on Pomeroy and Gonzaga starting 18th though, because looking purely at the play on the court for these two squads, the Bulldogs are ranked eighth in effective field goal percentage at 58.8 percent offensively and 22nd in effective field goal percentage allowed at 41.3 percent. Meanwhile Arizona pales a bit ranking 45th offensively at 54.3 percent and a disappointing 83rd defensively at 45.4 percent.
And as mentioned, Gonzaga has faced more quality teams so far, as aggressive non-conference scheduling has been a strength for the Bulldogs for several years.
Arizona Freshman Leader
Other than being home, we really do not see many other edges for Arizona in this contest, and that includes the Bulldogs being more experienced. With that being said, the Wildcats do have a special freshman recruit in Stanley Johnson, as the six-foot-7 forward leads the team in both scoring (14.1 points per game) and rebounding (6.4).
The Wildcats needed Johnson to contribute immediately after losing Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson from last year’s Elite Eight team, and they also get an added boost with Brandon Ashley now being back a full strength after being lost early last season to a broken foot. Still, Arizona continues to have only one senior in its regular rotation in T.J. McConnell, and he is only averaging 7.7 points thus far this year.
Three-Point Differential Could be Key
Finally, three-point shooting is another factor that seems to favor Gonzaga. Yes, there is not much difference in the three-point shooting percentages for these teams with the Bulldogs 53rd in the country at 38.8 percent and the Wildcats 61st at 38.4 percent. The big difference is in three-point defense though where Gonzaga allows just a 28.8 success rate while Arizona is only ranked 211th on that end at 34.9 percent.
Add this all up and a strong case can be made for Gonzaga being the better team right now despite Arizona’s higher ranking, especially when you factor in Arizona’s losing 3-4 ATS record vs. a less-than-imposing schedule .Granted the McKale Center can be a nightmare for visiting teams, but we still recommend taking the points with Gonzaga in Arizona on Saturday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Gonzaga +5 (-103)