Saint Mary’s vs SDSU Odds, Pick for Friday
Pictured: Aidan Mahaney. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Saint Mary's vs. San Diego State Odds
Two of the best mid-major programs in the country face off Friday night to open the Continental Tires Main Event.
A victory here could ultimately prove crucial to either team's at-large resume come March, so let's see who has the advantage and make a Saint Mary's vs. San Diego State pick.
For the first time in recent memory, Saint Mary's was prognosticated to essentially be a co-favorite with Gonzaga in WCC preseason polls. Gonzaga has been the bully of the WCC for years, but Coach Randy Bennett has built the Gaels into a perennial contender.
However, all of the preseason momentum behind Saint Mary's came to a sudden, unexpected halt this past Sunday. Despite leading throughout the first 30 minutes on their home court, the Gaels managed to score only eight points in the final 10 minutes and ultimately lost to an impressive Weber State team. If there has been a knock on Bennett's past teams and their style of play, it has certainly been their propensity to stall offensively. Weber State's defensive effort in the final stretch of Sunday's game may indicate that the Gaels' offensive struggles aren't fully in the rear-view mirror.
I expect a concerted effort and a ton of energy from the Gaels in what will be their first chance to respond to an early loss.
Fortunately, the Gaels are a veteran team with a ton of returners from a squad that made the NCAA Tournament last year. Logan Johnson was the most important departure from last season, but Saint Mary's still boasts five returners who played 20 or more minutes per game.
Sophomore Aidan Mahaney finished on the team in scoring last season. Mahaney is a special ballhandler and creator, but Saint Mary's success is reliant on its defensive effort.
Mahaney's may ultimately get in the discussion for WCC Player of the Year and the WCC Defensive Player of the Year could easily end up being his teammate, Mitchell Saxen, a 6'10" senior. Saxen is a dominant paint presence who consistently forces opponents to alter shots and San Diego St. doesn't profile to be a fantastic 3-point shooting team, so Saxen's interior presence could make it difficult for the Aztecs to score.
San Diego State navigated its way to Houston and made a Final Four appearance last season, culminating in a buzzer-beating jumper by Lamont Butler that propelled SDSU into the championship game.
Brian Dutcher has picked up right where his friend and predecessor Steve Fisher left off when he retired in 2017. Dutcher has led his program to four consecutive NCAA tTournament appearances, an accomplishment Fisher was never able to achieve in 18 years as head coach.
Dutcher is surely excited to have Butler back this season, but the Aztecs lost plenty of key contributors from last year's historic team. Matt Bradley's graduation means San Diego State will have a new leading scorer at the end of this season.
Butler couples with senior guard Darrion Trammell to bring returning familiarity and experience to SDSU. Veteran leadership in the backcourt raises the floor for San Diego State and I have little doubt that this team is still the class of the MWC and that it'll be back in the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight year.
Saint Mary's vs. San Diego State
Betting Pick & Prediction
Frankly, I prefer San Diego State when looking at the bigger picture of the entire season. The Aztecs and Gaels are built similarly in the way they emphasize defensive intensity, though I'd give a slight edge to SDSU when it comes to finding ways to score.
However, this particular spot is simply better for Saint Mary's. I trust Bennett's ability to get his team prepared and energized to get off the mat and respond after getting "punched in the mouth" by Weber State.
For those who enjoy same-game parlays, I also like the under quite a bit as both defenses pride themselves on being the identity of their team.
I simply feel the spot is too significant to look past. Take the Gaels in their effort to avoid dropping two straight games in non-conference play.
Pick: St. Mary's +2 (Bet to PK)
ESPN Bet is now live! Make sure you're ready for all the action with our exclusive ESPN BET promo code TANBONUS.