NCAA Basketball Picks: Gonzaga vs. St. Mary's

Darin Zank

Saturday, February 21, 2015 4:07 PM GMT

Gonzaga runs into its toughest test of its West Coast Conference slate when it visits second-place St. Mary's Saturday night. The Zags own the recent rivalry with the Gaels, with seven wins and six covers in the last seven meetings; can they cover six points tonight?

Zags-Gaels Betting Odds
The NCAA basketball odds opened Gonzaga at as low as -6 for this game, others as high as -8. As of mid-Saturday morning most shops were chalking the Zags at -6.5.

Also, most books opened the total at 134 or 135, then dropped it to 133.5.

Finally, bettors who think St. Mary's might pull the upset here could get a price of +248 on the moneyline at 5Dimes.


Zags-Gaels: The Set-Up
Gonzaga has won 20 games in a row, after beating Pacific Thursday night 86-74. The Zags shot 60 percent from the field, led by Kyle Wiltjer's 15-for-22 performance, but turned the ball over 11 times and committed 22 fouls. They also allowed the Tigers to hit on 11 of 19 three-pointers. That's why Gonzaga couldn't cover as a 17-point favorite.

Nonetheless, at 15-0 in conference play Gonzaga has already clinched a share of the WCC regular-season title, and at 27-1 overall the Zags remain in the running for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Also, with the concerns about strength-of-schedule, style points still count for Gonzaga. Blow-outs are expected, and close wins might hurt.

St. Mary's got bounced at Brigham Young nine days ago 82-60, but has won two games since, at San Diego in overtime and at home over Portland Thursday night 68-51. The Gaels only led the Pilots by a bucket at the half Thursday, then pulled away in the second half and covered as six-point favorites. St. Mary's shot 54 percent from the field, while holding Portland to 40 percent shooting.

With that cover the Gaels are now 17-6 ATS this season.

At 12-3 in conference play it will take a minor miracle for St. Mary's to tie Gonzaga atop the WCC. But bigger-picture, at 20-6 overall the Gaels, unfortunately, will probably need to run through the WCC tournament to earn an NCAA tournament bid; an at-large berth seems unlikely.

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Zags-Gaels Recent History
Gonzaga has won the last seven meetings in this rivalry, going 6-1 ATS in the process. The Zags took the first meeting between the teams this season one month ago 68-47, covering as 15-point favorites at home. Gonzaga only led that game by three points with about 12 minutes left, then spurted away. On the night the Zags shot 53 percent from the field, while holding St. Mary's to 36 percent shooting.

Last season Gonzaga swept three games from St. Mary's, by scores of 73-51, 75-47 and 70-54.


By the Numbers
Gonzaga is shooting 53 percent from the floor this season, which ranks No. 1 in the country, 40 percent from 3-point range, which ranks in the top 15, and 71 percent from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs are also dogging opponents into shooting just 38 percent from the floor, which ranks in the top 20.

St. Mary's is shooting 47 percent from the floor, 37 percent from long range and 71 percent from the line, but allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent.


Zags-Gaels Betting Trends
Gonzaga is only 4-5-1 ATS in true road games this season. The Zags are also only 1-4 ATS over their last five games, mainly because they've been favored by so much each time out. Today's six-point spread almost seems like a gift.

St. Mary's is 10-4-1 ATS at home.

The Zags have leaned toward the OVERS this season by a 14-9 margin, as their games have averaged 140 points.

The Gaels have leaned UNDER by an 11-7 margin, as their games have averaged 133 points.


Zags-Gaels Free Pick
We're trying not to sound like a broken record – remember those? - but this is a case of the better team playing on the road, where the spread is friendlier. If this game were being played in Spokane Gonzaga would be favored by double-digits, for sure. The Zags last six victories in this series have come by an average of almost 20 points per; they might not win by 20 tonight, but they should cover, so take them with your college basketball picks.

Free College Basketball Pick: Gonzaga -6 at Bookmaker