NCAAB Odds, Pick for Utah vs Saint Mary’s
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: Randy Bennett (Saint Mary’s)
Utah vs Saint Mary's Odds, Pick
Two NCAA tournament hopefuls — the Utah Utes and the Saint Mary's Gaels — will battle in a tough environment in Moraga, Calif.
Let's dive into the latest NCAAB odds and a pick for Utah vs. Saint Mary's on Monday, Nov. 27.
Craig Smith allowed his team to take Thanksgiving off after playing in the Charleston Classic the week prior. Utah beat Wake Forest in the opener, then lost consecutive games to Houston and St. John's.
Despite losing, Utah competed for 40 minutes against an elite Houston team. That garnered some optimism for a hopeful 2-1 finish in Charleston.
However, the Utes didn't show up against St. John's, losing 91-82. It was a strange performance, as Utah's typically stout defense didn't perform well against a scuffling St John's offense.
The Utes have a bonafide star in 7-footer Branden Carlson, who's the best big man in the Pac-12. The super-senior realistically could've transferred anywhere in the country due to his impressive size and skill, but he chose to stay with the Utes.
So far, Carlson is averaging 19 points and nine rebounds per contest.
Guards Gabe Madsen and Rollie Worster need to help out Carlson in the scoring column if Utah wants to put up points against the vaunted Gaels defense. Madsen pulled his inner Klay Thompson against Houston, scoring 29 points and hitting six triples.
Additionally, Utah is using Carlson differently than a season ago, starting him at the four rather than the five. Carlson is truly a unique player, as he's athletic, handles the ball and can shoot it from 3. He's a total mismatch, more so if Utah utilizes him correctly.
Adding 7-foot-1 center Lawson Lovering prompted the lineup change.
That said, Carlson can't expose plodding centers without facing them. I want to see Utah put Carlson at the five and start four guards around him.
Fellow WCC coaches tabbed Saint Mary's to finish ahead of Gonzaga at the beginning of the season, which shocked many based on the Zags' stranglehold on the conference in the past decade. But the early expectations appear too lofty, as Saint Mary's lost early-season games to Weber State, Washington and San Diego State.
The Gaels' offense looked non-existent during the trio of losses. Leading scorer Aidan Mahaney struggled in his new role as the No. 1 option on every scouting report. At the same time, point guard Augustas Marciulionis' transition to the full-time point guard spot has been challenging.
Finally, on Friday, the Gaels' offense found a shade of improvement. In a resounding win over Davidson, they scored 88 points, which is like 105 in the slow-paced system.
My hypothesis on Marciulionis being the key to Saint Mary's success looks correct after he scored 18 points and tossed eight dimes against Davidson.
Also, why not involve the rotating frontcourt duo of Mitchell Saxen and Harry Wessels more? Saxen's efficiency numbers are lower than last year (shooting 47% from the floor), but Wessels looks incredible off the bench. Establishing the paint with two skilled bigs could open up the perimeter offense.
Of course, the Gaels are elite on defense, as usual. It's the formula Randy Bennett has used to propel Saint Mary's into national prominence over the last two decades, and it's still in full bloom.
Let's start by saying Moraga is a difficult environment for opposing teams. That alone probably bakes three points into the line favoring the Gaels, implying only a team difference of one point.
Sure, the Gaels came off the presses slowly, but they're still one of America's most experienced and well-coached teams.
Utah showed some defensive leaks against the Red Storm, and the offense has limitations outside of Carlson and Madsen.
Pick: Saint Mary's -4.5
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