College Basketball Odds, Pick & Preview for BYU vs. Gonzaga (Thursday, Jan. 13)
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Timme (Gonzaga)
- Gonzaga takes on BYU in a highly-anticipated WCC clash.
- The West Coast Conference is much improved this season and this will be the Zags' first test.
- Shane McNichol breaks down where the value lies.
BYU vs. Gonzaga Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Traditionally, once Gonzaga’s schedule enters mid-January and the Zags are tipping off against conference opponents at or near midnight on the East Coast, there’s not much suspense.
Over the last five-plus seasons — dating back to 2016-17 — Gonzaga has lost three total regular season games to its West Coast Conference foes. The Zags haven’t lost more than three conference games in a season since 1998.
Since 2003, Gonzaga has won 16 regular season conference championships and shared two others, failing to finish the season atop the West Coast standings just once in that time period.
This season, things could be different. Gonzaga is still very good, among the best teams in the country, but the West Coast Conference is at its highest level in years, if not ever.
The conference has earned more than two tournament bids just once this century, when three WCC schools made the Big Dance in 2012. This season, four WCC teams have their eyes on the postseason. Gonzaga is joined in the top-50 nationally (by both KenPom and Bart Torvik’s metrics) by Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and the Zags’ Thursday night opponent, BYU.
Gonzaga could receive more of a challenge from the WCC than in any season in recent memory. Does that begin with the Cougars’ visit to Spokane?
BYU’s success is derived from its backcourt. Fifth-year senior and former Arizona transfer Alex Barcello leads the Cougars in scoring and is the primary creator for Mark Pope’s offense.
He’s joined by Milwaukee transfer Te’Jon Lucas, who is a capable scorer and even better passer. With a series of shooters and athletes rounding out the lineup, Barcello and Lucas work off ball-screen actions to create offense at every level of the defense.
BYU’s defense has been very strong so far this season, as well. The Cougars rank 16th in defensive efficiency, though there’s reasons to believe that success could regress.
First, the Cougars’ opponents are shooting just 26.4% from 3-point range, fourth lowest in the nation. The national average for 3-point shooting sits at 33.3%. BYU’s opponents have shot above that mark on just two occasions this season.
For a team that does not force a lot of turnovers, that could be a reason for concern. BYU is getting stops from missed baskets, which is hard to rely on against better shooting teams.
That’s especially scary for a team like BYU, with only one player taller than 6-foot-6 in the rotation. Against the skyline that is the Gonzaga frontline, that’s an issue.
Think about recent Gonzaga teams. Copy and paste, and you have a general idea of what to expect from this year’s Zags.
Drew Timme is a contender for National Player of the Year. Chet Holmgren is a phenomenal freshman, earning the eyes of every NBA scout. Mark Few has a stable of guards that let his team play fast and with firepower.
In the Zags’ first conference game, the typically quick Gonzaga tempo was on full display. The Bulldogs and Pepperdine played a game that hit 90 possessions in regulation, with the Zags hitting 117 points on 1.3 points per possession.
The Gonzaga attack has an answer for nearly every defensive question. Timme or Holmgren can score inside, Andrew Nembhard and Rasir Bolton can slash into the paint and Julian Strawther leads a barrage of 3-point shooters.
Everything Gonzaga does is built to find easy buckets. The Zags lead the nation in 2-point shooting percentage for the third time in four years. Gonzaga hasn’t ranked outside the top-10 nationally in that stat since 2016.
Gonzaga’s one issue last season came with Timme’s defensive versatility when he was pulled away from the basket. This year, Holmgren’s presence makes that a moot point. His Inspector Gadget arms alter any shot an opponent tries to loft over him around the rim.
BYU vs. Gonzaga Betting Pick
Whether BYU is able to keep this game competitive or not, Gonzaga is going to find ways to score. The breakneck pace of the Zags’ offense isn’t going to be slowed down by anything BYU tries to do in this game.
With BYU’s defensive shooting regression potentially ready to swing the other way, Gonzaga could have a hot shooting night. Even if the Bulldogs don’t do so, Timme and Holmgren have major size advantages in the paint. Few will look to feed both throughout this contest.
So, if BYU hopes to stick around, it must try to score with Gonzaga. The BYU guards are certainly capable of giving Gonzaga trouble, but on the road in The Kennel, that won’t be easy.
Gonzaga will put a big number on the scoreboard. If BYU can keep pace, the Cougars could cover and the over will hit. If not, the Zags win in a rout and the total will be more in play.
Regardless of BYU’s output, it’s hard to see Gonzaga failing to hit its team total.
Pick: Gonzaga Team Total Over 83.5
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