Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions: Back the Zags to Win Big (Saturday, February 12)
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Chet Holmgren.
- Gonzaga squares off against Saint Mary's in a WCC clash.
- The Zags haven't lost a game in league play this season thus far.
- Anthony Dabbundo breaks down the matchup and offers up his best bet.
Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga Odds
|Saint Mary’s Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Gonzaga is dominating the West Coast Conference like few teams have dominated a conference before this season, and it’s even more impressive when you consider how improved the WCC is this year.
Saint Mary’s — the league’s second-best team — visits the Kennel in Spokane on Saturday night and still finds itself as a double-digit underdog against the consensus best team in the country.
The Bulldogs have already crushed the three next-best teams in the league when they beat BYU by 26 at home and 33 away one week ago. Gonzaga smashed Santa Clara by 32 on the road and then overcame a slow start to beat San Francisco by 16 at home a couple of weeks ago.
Critics of the Gonzaga program and the conference will say the league isn’t enough of a challenge for Gonzaga — which has some merit — but Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, BYU and Santa Clara all are top-60 programs in the country this year when fully healthy.
The Bulldogs have brushed all of them aside with ease, and the scariest part is the continued improvement and leap that star freshman Chet Holmgren has made from the nonconference to now, which has raised the ceiling of the Bulldogs that much higher.
While this is an all-in spot for Saint Mary’s and you typically would expect Gonzaga to be inflated, the Gaels have regression coming and this matchup is really a nightmare for them.
Based on ShotQuality record luck, the Gaels have been the most fortunate team in the WCC this season. Saint Mary’s sits at 19-5 following a loss at Santa Clara, but SQ projects it to be 16-8.
Most of the difference comes from 3-point offense, where the Gaels rank inside the top 70 nationally and second in the WCC in percentage of 3s made. ShotQuality says they’ve been quite lucky to shoot that well when you consider that SMC is 249th in catch-and-shoot rank and 292nd in off-the-dribble 3-point shooting.
The Gaels have made a lot of difficult shots and contested looks, and that’s unlikely to continue — especially against a perimeter defense with the length and athleticism of the Bulldogs.
Saint Mary’s does match up pretty well in the post with the Bulldogs on defense when considering that the defense is top-50 in the country at guarding post-ups and guarding the rim. But that defense has been almost exclusively in the half-court because it’s very hard to get in transition.
But as Santa Clara showed and Gonzaga surely will, the Gaels struggle in transition and struggle to guard off the dribble. The Gaels defense ranks 261st in defensive ShotQuality allowed in transition and won’t be able to stop Andrew Nembhard from getting into the lane at will.
If Gonzaga has any defensive weaknesses, it’s in transition defense, defending players who are elite with the ball off the dribble or defending ball screens. None of these are places that the Gaels will expose the Bulldogs.
Saint Mary’s doesn’t go up-tempo or run at all and doesn’t have elite playmakers like Alabama or San Francisco that gave this defense some issues either.
And Saint Mary’s won’t really be running the pick-and-roll because it tends to run most of its actions out of the post-up. And good luck posting up Drew Timme or an improved Holmgren in the post.
The Bulldogs are winning games by an average margin of 29.6 points per game in league play, and while the two toughest games left on the schedule remain, that would break the record set by Gonzaga in 2019.
Even last year’s Bulldogs weren’t on this pace that they’ve reached thus far this season. Improvements from Holmgren and Julian Strawther have raised both the night-to-night floor and the ceiling of the Bulldogs.
You’d expect a tax to be placed on trying to back Gonzaga, especially in this league at home. But since 2015, Gonzaga is 51-34-3 against the spread at home in the WCC, covering 60% of the time for a 15.3% ROI, according to our BetLabs database.
I’m not much of a trends person, but that’s a strong signal that the market doesn’t actually show enough respect for the Bulldogs, unlike most top-ranked teams.
Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga Betting Pick
Saint Mary’s inability to defend in transition this season makes Gonzaga arguably the worst matchup in the entire country. The Gaels will try to slow this game to a crawl and might have some success doing that at home in Moraga to end the season.
But for a Gonzaga team and fan base that would have this game circled as one of the few to be focused for, the Bulldogs should have no problem brushing aside a challenge from the Gaels.
The same way Santa Clara exposed the SMC defense off the dribble and finally made perimeter shots, Gonzaga will do that to an even more extreme extent.
I’d play Gonzaga at -17 or better, especially since the Gaels will struggle to score at the rim against Holmgren and Timme.
Pick: Gonzaga -17 or better
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