Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions: Don’t Sleep on the Gaels (Saturday, Feb. 26)
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- Gonzaga looks to complete its perfect WCC campaign as it travels to Moraga to take on Saint Mary's.
- The Bulldogs are coming off of a 16-point win on the road at San Francisco, but the Gaels are in second place in the league.
- D.J. James explains why he's backing the underdog.
Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's Odds
-110o / -110u
|Saint Mary's Odds|
-110o / -110u
In Thursday's contest between the Gonzaga Bulldogs (24-2) and San Francisco Dons, Gonzaga looked unfazed during the second half. That resilience and composure on Thursday typifies the Bulldogs' performance throughout the demanding West Coast Conference season.
Next up? The No. 1-ranked Zags must overcome a road test against No. 23 Saint Mary’s (23-6) in the Gaels' home gym. Chet Holmgren, Drew Timme & Co. face off against a comparably adept Gaels defense.
Not only is Saint Mary's stifling on defense, but moreover it plays at an unbearably slow pace. With fewer shots going up for both teams, expect the Gaels to cover this number — if only by a point or two.
What Makes Gonzaga So Elite
Gonzaga is an elite ball club. The Bulldogs have trounced virtually every would-be challenger since they dropped a game to Alabama in early December. That is how long it has been since Gonzaga tasted defeat.
The WCC is remarkably strong this season, and Gonzaga looks like the proverbial older brother compared to its rivals. The Bulldogs' dominance is a product of their balanced approach: Gonzaga is a top-10 team on both sides of the ball, per KenPom.
Gonzaga's brand of balanced excellence is usually indicative of teams with championship pedigrees — as Stuckey explains in his article highlighting the 11 college basketball teams that can win the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The Zags shoot 38% from deep and 61.6% from inside the arc — shooting splits that are almost unheard of for an entire team.
Controlling Pace of Play Will Be Key to Victory
Furthermore, the Bulldogs can light up the scoreboard in a hurry. The high-powered Gonzaga offense pairs its gaudy shooting splits with a blistering pace of 14.5 seconds per possession.
However, Saint Mary's style of play may force Gonzaga to change its formula on Saturday night.
The Gaels force opponents to use up around 17.6 seconds per possession, which may disrupt Gonzaga's typical offensive rhythm and cause frustration on occasion.
Gonzaga Must Shoot Well from Deep
The Zags will need to hit their 3s in order to win this game. The weakest attribute of Saint Mary's stellar defense is along the perimeter; opposing teams have hit 33.8% of their 3-point attempts against the Gaels this season.
This is where Gonzaga's guards play a pivotal role in determining whether or not the Bulldogs can cover against the spread.
Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton and Andrew Nembhard have each launched over 100 3-point attempts this season.
Holmgren follows them as the team's fourth-highest volume 3-point shooter — and because of his size, he is a remarkable mismatch for the more traditional big men from Saint Mary’s.
Still, despite my emphasis on Gonzaga's 3-point shooting in this contest, the lion's share of its points have come inside this season — and that is also where the Saint Mary's defense excels. In fact, only 29.3% of the Gaels' total point distribution has come from behind the arc.
Expect the Gaels to Grind the Clock to a Near-Halt
Saint Mary’s does allow the fifth-most 3-point attempts. So essentially, the Gaels take away the interior but, in turn, open up deep shots. Nonetheless, if Gonzaga is forced to focus on only one area of the court to get points, that could keep the game much closer than expected.
The Gaels may not have the offensive firepower that Gonzaga does, but they will grind games out. Saint Mary's averages 18.9 seconds per possession on offense, which is so slow that it ranks 323rd out of 358 teams in the NCAA. Additionally, the Gaels play at the 335th-slowest Adjusted Tempo, per KenPom.
If Saint Mary's can control the tempo, it will be key to a cover at the end of this matchup.
The Zags' Achilles Heel?
Gonzaga also has one apparent weakness: Offensive rebounding.
Saint Mary’s does not particularly excel in this area, either — but it is worth noting, because the Gaels rank 19th in defensive rebounding. They limit opponents to an offensive rebounding rate of 22.9%, so they will contain second-chance opportunities for Holmgren and Timme.
Once they do so — and if the Zags have a bit of a cold spell from downtown — then momentum should play into the favor of Saint Mary’s-backers.
Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's Betting Pick
It is very difficult to bet against the best team in the country. However, this game is on the road — and it is the end of the season.
The Gaels likely will not win this game, but since they can counter Gonzaga's offensive presence inside and eliminate offensive rebounding opportunities while controlling the pace of the game, they will have a fighter’s chance of covering the spread.
There is a little value in the line, so take Saint Mary’s.