College Basketball Odds, Pick & Preview for Saint Mary’s vs. San Francisco (Thursday, January 27)
Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jamaree Bouyea.
- Both Saint Mary's and San Francisco look to build upon their NCAA Tournament resumes on Thursday night.
- The Dons are favored at home against a Gaels team that will look to play at a slow tempo.
- Anthony Dabbundo breaks down the matchup and makes his betting pick below.
Saint Mary’s vs. San Francisco Odds
|Saint Mary’s Odds|
-110o / -110u
|San Francisco Odds|
-110o / -110u
The dreams of a four-bid West Coast Conference are alive and well at the moment with San Francisco, Saint Mary’s, BYU and Gonzaga all projected to be in the current NCAA Tournament field.
All three of the conference’s second-tier teams have avoided bad losses, and both Saint Mary’s and San Francisco will have a chance at a quality league win on Thursday night when the Gaels visit the Dons.
The Gaels have won three straight in the league following a loss in the opener at BYU by nine points, including a victory at home against Santa Clara. The snail pace at which Saint Mary’s plays combines with its ability to chase shooters off the 3-point line and typically means it plays low-variance games. Those tend to be in the low 60s against quality opponents and this game should be no different.
San Francisco has had two close losses to Grand Canyon and BYU, trailed by three going into the half at Gonzaga and then dropped a neutral-site thriller with Loyola Chicago.
Some of the underlying metrics suggest that both of these teams are a bit flattered by their current record, but there’s a few key matchup areas the Dons should be able to exploit to get margin in this game.
Randy Bennett’s Saint Mary’s teams have been traditionally defined by elite post offense, good jump shooting, a slow pace and an occasionally leaky interior defense that usually stems from lacking athleticism defensively.
This iteration of the Gaels is actually quite good defensively, ranking 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. The Gaels really struggle to shoot the ball from the perimeter consistently well and they can have turnover issues at times. The Gaels rank outside the top 200 in ShotQuality in half-court offense, ball screen offense and catch and shoot 3s.
San Francisco does look to get out and run a decent amount in transition when possible and SMC turnovers will let SF’s superior ball handlers take advantage of the Gaels in the open floor.
The Gaels have significantly overperformed SQ’s expected points per possession in each of the last three games, which should suggest that there is even some shooting regression for Saint Mary’s offense on the road against an excellent Dons perimeter defense that alters a lot of shot attempts.
San Francisco has lost two of three entering this game as they collapsed late at home against BYU and then gave Gonzaga a competitive half last week before ultimately losing the game by 16 points. The Dons slowed that game down as much as possible in the half-court, but they don’t always have to do that.
The Dons may have lost to both BYU and Loyola Chicago, but the SQ numbers suggest they were unfortunate results. When you look at why this Dons offense works, look no further than Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz. The two man backcourt have a ton of speed with the ball, get into the lane with ease and most importantly, generate excellent 3-point looks off the dribble.
Todd Golden’s team ranks ninth best offensively in spacing, 56th in off the dribble 3-point ShotQuality and shoots them with the fifth most frequency in the entire country. The Gaels are an excellent team defense generally and should be prepared to stop the multiple ball actions the Dons will run, but they don’t have elite on-ball defenders generally. Shabazz and Bouyea will be the two best guards in the game and can break down the Gaels defense off the dribble.
One of the major issues for the Dons this year has been turnovers and getting beat in transition because of that, but the Gaels aren’t really going to look to run at all and that helps the Dons get their defense set to shut down a mediocre Saint Mary’s offense.
Saint Mary’s vs. San Francisco Betting Pick
The market opened the Dons at -3 and almost immediately, that was bet up to -3.5. I wouldn’t play any further beyond the current number of 3.5, but at this number, I’m comfortable laying the points and taking the home favorite.
Saint Mary’s will give up open looks off the dribble to Shabazz and Bouyea, and that will be the difference as they score and create enough good looks for the Dons offense to consistently stay in front of Saint Mary’s.
The Gaels have vastly overperformed their ShotQuality numbers on offense in the last handful of games and the underlying numbers on this offense don’t offer much optimism for them scoring in the half-court on the Dons. This is also a desperation home spot for the Dons, who need the game more for their tournament resumé than the visitors.