Zags Heavy Chalk in West Regional Opener vs. UNC Greensboro

Jay Pryce

Monday, March 12, 2018 12:59 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 12, 2018 12:59 PM UTC

Gonzaga and UNC Greensboro tip off first in the West Regional on Thursday (1:30 p.m. ET), the Bulldogs laying 12.5 points. The Zags, a perennial invite to the NCAA Tournament, have not lost in the first round since 2008. Is there an upset in the making? 

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 UNC GreensboroFree NCAAB Pick: OverBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Gonzaga (30-4 SU, 14-16 ATS) is as close as it can get to its campus in Spokane, Wash., tipping off in Boise, Idaho, for its first-round matchup vs. UNC Greensboro (27-7 SU, 17-9 ATS) on Thursday. Taco Bell Arena, within driving distance for many students and local fans, will harbor some elements of home-court advantage. The Bulldogs will welcome the help if it is to return to the national title game in consecutive years, losing key players (Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski, Jordan Mathews, etc.) from last season’s squad.

The Bulldogs are making their 20th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, winning the West Coast Conference regular-season title for the 18th time in the last 19 years. Veteran head coach Mark Few regularly fields well-balanced teams. This squad is no different. It ranks 12th and 17th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings nationally. Depth is the one concern. Only seven players average double digits in minutes per game. Foul trouble or very physical opponents can possibly cause trouble.

UNC Greensboro (27-7 SU, 17-9 ATS) is the class of the Southern Conference, winning both the regular-season and tournament titles. The team set a program-record with 27 victories, closing out the year winning 11 of 12 overall. Stingy defense is the key to its success, ranking sixth in the country in opponent scoring allowing 62.4 points per game.

Offensively, the team lives and dies by the three. The Spartans take 45.6 percent of all their shots from behind the arc, ranking 25th most nationally. Their key player is guard Francis Alonso. The Spanish-born junior, who posts 15.6 points and 3.0 assists per game, earned first-team All-SoCon honors and won the conference tournament MVP. Senior forward Marvin Smith (12.3 ppg) is the other scoring threat. The 6-foot-6 senior can play inside-out, sinking 75 treys on the season. The pair is the only Spartans to average double figures in scoring.

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We're going to Boise!! @UNCGBasketball faces off against Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament!! #letsgoG

— UNCG Athletics (@uncgsports) March 12, 2018


The Zags currently rank sixth in the AP Top 25. Greensboro is just 0-8 SU and 3-5 ATS vs. ranked opponents all-time under head coach Wes Miller. It has lost by double digits in all but one, including a 60-48 drubbing at top-ranked Virginia earlier this season. The Spartans’ average margin of defeat in this situation is 23.5 points.

Now, this is probably the best team Miller has coached, and all but two of the above-mentioned ranked matchups were true road games. Still, this squad is not equipped to spring an upset here, even on a neutral court. It just does not possess the firepower to close out a victory. The Spartans average 63.2 points per game under Miller as double-digit underdogs.

Our numbers place the Zags as 12-point chalk, winning 77-65. The NCAAB oddsmakers leave us no room against the spread with a 12.5-point opener. Look for the total to open in the mid-to-high 130s. This is where one can squeeze out a little value. Since 2010, the ‘over’ is 16-5 when Gonzaga plays an unranked opponent on a neutral court in March. The Spartans will cause a scare in the second half with a solid run or two. It will force the Bulldogs to keep their foot on the gas. Pick ‘over’ as the final score reaches the low 140s.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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