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College Basketball Odds, Picks, Futures: 2022-23 WCC Betting Preview

College Basketball Odds, Picks, Futures: 2022-23 WCC Betting Preview article feature image
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Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Timme (Gonzaga)

Death. Taxes. And Gonzaga being atop the WCC totem pole.

That narrative will be copy and pasted to kick off the WCC betting breakdown until further notice.

Even Randy Bennett’s historically good Saint Mary’s Gaels couldn’t dethrone the Zags last season, despite an admirable home victory to close out the season.

For the 10th year in a row, all “Gonzaga to win the WCC regular season” futures tickets cashed.

Spoiler. The 2023 campaign feels eerily similar to the 2022 story arc. The Zags will dominate. The Gaels will compete. The others will battle.

Rinse. Wash. Repeat.


2022-23 West Coast Conference Regular Season Futures Odds

Team
Odds (Via DraftKings)
Gonzaga -1600
BYU +1600
Saint Mary’s +1600
San Francisco +2500
Santa Clara +10000
Loyola Marymount +25000
Portland +50000
Pepperdine +50000
San Diego +50000
Pacific +100000

BYU Cougars: Bigs. Youth. Upside

BYU’s bounce back is imminent. The Cougars boast a ferocious frontline and a crazy smart coach, but there are questions on the perimeter.

Alex Barcello, the heartbeat of Cougar basketball, is no longer around, forcing head coach Mark Pope to seek immediate assistance via the transfer portal.

He landed a prized pickup in Rudi Williams, but the Kansas State and Coastal Carolina transfer feels like a glorified rental rather than a safe, long-term solution.

Still, with a deep, young nucleus, Pope is a safe bet to finish inside the top-three in 2023.


The NorCal Natives

A salute to the Bay Area-based triage of Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and Santa Clara. All three enjoyed banner years last season, both for fans and betting backers.

The Gaels and the Broncos finished the year a combined 38-24-4 against the spread.

USF, despite a head scratching 13-19 ATS record, held a positive +1.9 average cover margin for the entire year (bad variance alert!).

In short, these three teams were undervalued from start-to-finish last season. For goodness sake, the Broncos were a whopping 12-4 against the number in league play.

The common denominator is obvious: three razor sharp coaching staffs.

Bennett retains his long-standing post at SMC, Herb Sendek is back at Santa Clara for his seventh season on the sidelines and USF, despite losing Todd Golden to the SEC, remains in safe hands under former assistant Chris Gerlufsen.

However, tread lightly when backing these cover beasts this year. Akin to other California schools that were crippled by the COVID season in 2021, there’s no value baked into this year’s handicap.

Saint Mary’s was the ultimate beneficiary of this dynamic last year. Not only were the Gaels simply a better team, but the COVID season cratered their 2021 campaign, creating additional betting upside.


SoCal Swoons? Or Boons?

Is this the year for SoCal’s revenge against its northern territory rival? Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and San Diego are all poised for big bumps in 2023.

The computer models, however, can smell the roses here too, as seen in the seismic jumps in their preseason projections.

From a betting lens, it’s not whether or not the Lions, Waves and Toreros will improve, but how much? Each is its own puzzle with varying moving parts.

San Diego Toreros

San Diego may offer the most upside of the group. Former UCLA and St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin aims to resurrect both his own career and the step-brother hoops program of San Diego.

In a video game, a simulation might spit out USD as a WCC runner-up to the Zags.

Heck, the roster boasts two Pac-12 All-Conference caliber players in Jaiden DeLaire and Eric Williams, which is just the tip of the talent iceberg.

If you believe Lavin can weld together the individual parts, USD could be a boon in the betting markets.

Pepperdine Waves

Pepperdine’s projection is fairly straightforward. Talent-magnet Lorenzo Romar retained three pro-level talents, who now enter that coveted sophomore-year launching pad.

Mike Mitchell Jr., Maxwell Lewis and Houston Mallette are as gifted as any threesome in the league. How high they fly will drive the crux of Pepperdine’s value this season — yes, there are other proven commodities returning, but they will all cozy up to supporting roles alongside this triumvirate.

For reference, KenPom projects a near 100-spot overall improvement from last year’s final ranking to this year’s starting ranking for both the Waves and the Toreros. That baseline can serve as a relative marker for declaring whether you’re in or you’re out on either team.

LMU Lions

Finally, LMU will hit the reset button. No one noticed Stan Johnson’s sneaky climb into top-100 territory back in 2021.

This was quietly buried by last year’s tailspin, but Johnson returns two starters who were key cogs on that stout 2021 rendition.

Johnson reeled in some big transfer fish, too, and he’s eager to unleash what he sees as a hungry team in 2023, motivated by last season’s 3-12 conference record.

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Portland Pilots Lift Off

Shantay Legans’ prowess is hard to see in this league of coaching chess-masters.

But his work with the clipboard was nothing short of brilliant last season.

The Pilots clawed their way to a 7-7 record in WCC action last year, but reigned supreme on the betting battlefield. Portland finished 11-5 against the spread in conference games, covering by a whopping 6.5 points a game, per TeamRankings.

It’s easy to see why the Pilots are the early-season darlings in the WCC. However, pull back the layers and one will find regression lurking.

The devil lies in the schedule details.

Portland managed to play Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s once each, going 1-1 against the number in those two matchups. Against Santa Clara, the Pilots were walloped in both contests, failing to cover, as they struggled to match up to the superior size and physicality up front.

Against formidable frontlines, the Pilots may struggle to hold their betting value, despite Legans’ shrewd coaching chops.


Lonely Pacific Island

The Tigers will be the ocean floor of the WCC this season, thousands of leagues below sea level.

Are they an auto-fade? Not necessarily.

Head coach Leonard Perry may be unproven, but he embodies many of the same intangibles that helped his former boss, Damon Stoudamire, rally the troops together in 2020 and 2021.

During that span, the Tigers finished one game above .500 against the number, far from a betting dumpster fire.


WCC Futures & Picks

  • Gonzaga 1-16: Bet $160 to win $10. It’s a safe mutual fund that will pay a small — yet rewarding — dividend by springtime. Don’t overthink it.
  • Saint Mary’s 16-1: But, if you want to swing for the fences, take the Zags’ WCC arch nemesis. At 16-1, the Gaels are being priced in the same tier as BYU, and there’s a chance they are every bit as good as last year. They lose a critical shotmaker in Tommy Kuhse, but burgeoning big man Mitchell Saxen could be the next great Gael big in Moraga.

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