It would be wild if Pepperdine managed to beat the best team in the country. The Waves have a losing record. That is why NCAAB odds favor Gonzaga by 25.5 points. Still, that is an insane spread. Even if the Waves can’t win, can they at least cover? Let’s take a look at each team.
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Pepperdine Waves
Thursday, January 14, 2021 – 9:00 PM EST at McCarthey Athletic Center
Gonzaga remains the best team in college basketball. They have dominated through their schedule and have a 12-0 record. They will likely become 13-0 after playing Pepperdine.
The Bulldogs have relied on an explosive offense and excellent coaching. They are led by senior forward Corey Kispert. He leads the team in over 21 points a game, and he is why Gonzaga has the best scoring offense in the country.
While they have played well offensively, they have allowed over 73 points a game. That hasn’t hurt them yet, but their weak defense leaves them vulnerable to an upset at all times. Could that happen on Thursday?
Keys for Gonzaga to Cover the Spread
A spread this large adds extra concerns about covering. For starters, Gonzaga’s offense has to explode. They have shown that they are capable of doing just that on a consistent basis. The Bulldogs have scored over 100 points in 25% of their games this season.
You also have to step up defensively. This is where Gonzaga has been weak, but they shouldn’t be too concerned about this game. My real worry is that they won’t get up for this type of opponent. They should be able to dominate against the Waves, but what kind of motivation is there in this type of game? It will take some discipline, which I think Gonzaga has.
Also, the benchwarmers have to keep things up. They will definitely play in this game. When that happens, they could easily ruin the spread. We’ve seen a 30-point lead shrink towards the end of games before, so that is definitely a key in this game.
As long as Gonzaga can stay focused, they will easily win this game. The main concern is if they can run up the score and improve on defense. This won’t be a true test, but they’ve struggled against inferior teams before.
Keys for Pepperdine to Cover the Spread
Obviously, the first question has to be how to stop this offense. They seem to have had their way with just about everyone this season. I would put an emphasis on getting back in transition and forcing this team to play their halfcourt offense. They might lose out on opportunities to crash the glass, but it will be more important to stop them defensively.
I would try my best to stack the paint and force them to kick the basketball outside. From there, they should keep their hands in passing lanes. Gonzaga is one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and they love to get assists across the board. You have to do something to keep them from finding the open man. If you’re going to pack the paint, someone will be open. Because of this, look for them to swarm the ball inside and work from there.
It’s also important to keep this game as close as you can for the first half. There will come a point where Gonzaga will pull away. They need to avoid that dam breaking for as long as possible. That will keep this loss respectable, but it will also boost their hopes of covering the spread. That isn’t their goal, but it might help some bettors along the way.
Time for a Pick
Obviously, Pepperdine doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep this game close. They are a solid offensive team, but they lack the ability to get hot from behind the arc. That will make it harder for them to score, and they haven’t done anything that makes me think they can slow down Gonzaga.
This is all about the spread. 25 points is a ton to win by, and Gonzaga hasn’t been great against the spread at home. With a spread that large, you are betting on a lot of things not to go wrong. A player could get injured. Pepperdine could somehow get hot early. The bench could blow a massive lead. With all of this on the table, on the betting sites I have to go with Pepperdine to cover. Still, I don’t feel good about it. I would much rather add the Gonzaga moneyline to a parlay to boost your odds slightly.
*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.