WCC Semifinal Odds, Picks, Predictions: Gonzaga vs. San Francisco & Saint Mary’s vs. Santa Clara
Photo by Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Timme (Gonzaga)
- Trips to the West Coast Conference tournament final are on the line tonight.
- Gonzaga is a huge favorite over San Francisco, while Saint Mary’s is giving points against Santa Clara.
- Anthony Dabbundo breaks down the matchups and makes his betting picks below.
The chalk has held to this point in the West Coast Conference, with the favorites winning and covering the spread in each of the six games of the tournament headed into Monday night semifinals.
The league’s two best teams begin play in the bracket in the semifinal round on Monday night, as No. 1 seed Gonzaga will take on San Francisco for the third time this season at 9 p.m. ET and No. 2 seed Saint Mary’s will conclude the evening around midnight ET with a second meeting against Santa Clara.
The NCAA Tournament scenarios are simple: Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco are all safely in, while Santa Clara needs to win the league title to claim an auto-bid. Gonzaga is close to a No. 1 seed, but a loss could knock them back.
Here’s my thoughts on both semifinals, starting with Gonzaga and San Francisco.
Gonzaga vs. San Francisco
- Gonzaga -13
- Total: 154.5
- 9 p.m. ET
Gonzaga won both regular season meetings with San Francisco by double digits. They failed to cover a 17-point spread at home in a 16-point victory in January and then covered an 11-point spread at USF in a similar 16-point triumph on Feb. 24. Now, the Bulldogs are laying 13 points on a neutral court, but there’s one major unanswered injury question that surrounds this game.
San Francisco big man Yauhen Massalski suffered a knee injury late in the Dons win against BYU on Saturday night. Head coach Todd Golden was noncommittal about Massalski’s status postgame on Saturday and seemed to be overly cautious, if anything.
Per Todd Golden – "Banged knees, probably day-to-day" for Yauhen Massalski. Up in the air for Monday, but the Dons are aiming towards March Madness – they won't force it
— Jim Root (@2ndChancePoints) March 6, 2022
Because of Gonzaga’s front court duo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, Massalski is critically important for helping the Dons on the glass, protecting the rim and producing some sort of offensive punch on the interior. It’s hard enough to score on the Bulldogs in the paint, but they’re going to be extremely perimeter dependent if Massalski isn’t suited up for the game.
One other option for San Francisco in the middle is Patrick Tape, a very experienced player who has shown flashes in his time at Colombia and USF. But it’s a big ask for him to offer much inside, and the same is true for 7-foot-2 backup Volodymyr Markovetskyy, who had the game of his life on Saturday but BYU is a whole lot different than Gonzaga. His career high of eight points was on Saturday night.
Where the Dons thrive in this matchup and why I think they can be competitive is with their guard duo of Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz. The experienced duo can force the game to be played at their pace, let the Dons run through their ball screen actions in the halfcourt and try to keep Gonzaga out of transition.
Gonzaga made 10-of-20 from beyond the arc in the second meeting at USF last week, and if they do that again they’ll probably cover and win this easily. But don’t let that shooting performance distract you from the offensive success the Dons managed in that game.
The Dons had a ton of success in the halfcourt and in transition against Gonzaga. They had a 1.23 predicted PPP in transition, per ShotQuality and also generated elite looks on catch-and-shoot 3s, pick-and-rolls and ball screens.
The rims are notoriously soft and friendly at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, and if this becomes a shooting contest, that favors the Dons offense more. San Francisco ranks 42nd in the country in 3-point frequency and allows very few 3-pointers on defense.
Relatively speaking, Gonzaga’s offense isn’t reliant too much on the deep ball but gets great looks at the rim. The Bulldogs shouldn’t have any problems scoring in this game, especially in the post and at the rim.
But the Dons were inside the number the entire first meeting in a cover, and it took an unsustainably good shooting night from the Bulldogs in the second meeting to put that game away. Bouyea and Shabazz can control pace and stay in this game for round three.
If Massalski plays and isn’t held out to prepare for the NCAA Tournament, I’ll be taking the Dons with the points. If he’s out, I’m staying away. He’s too important to the interior defense and post-up ability. Don’t be surprised if the market buys Gonzaga in a “off of a loss” narrative, so you might get a better number closer to tip.
The Pick: San Francisco +13 or better if Massalski plays
Saint Mary’s vs. Santa Clara
- Saint Mary’s -5.5
- Total: 138.5
- 11:30 p.m. ET
Like the first semifinal, this is also a third meeting between the two programs. Except in this case, Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s split the season series.
Saint Mary’s ended the first meeting on a 10-2 run to win by eight in the first meeting at home on Jan. 20, and Santa Clara got revenge on its home court with a 77-72 home win on Feb. 8.
The Broncos had a brutal nonconference and middle portion of the season because of all of the injuries they’ve dealt with, but they’ve really rounded into form in the second half of the season. Santa Clara did lose both meetings with San Francisco and Gonzaga, but the Broncos beat both Mary’s and BYU and trucked some decent WCC foes as well.
ShotQuality says that Saint Mary’s is a bit overrated, when you compare their actual record to their expected record. The Gaels have a 23-6 record this season, but SQ’s projected record is just 18-11. That five-game over performance is the largest in the WCC and the seventh biggest in the entire country.
Santa Clara’s defense is pretty solid at taking away midrange looks and actually defends the rim at a pretty solid rate. SC can struggle with isolation and players off the dribble, but that isn’t the Saint Mary’s offense at all. The Broncos also love to run in transition whenever possible and shoot 3s at an elite rate. In this gym with the soft rims, Santa Clara is more likely to benefit from the extra 3-pointers hoisted up.
The Broncos are top 20 in the country in 3-point shot quality and also rank fifth in the country in shooting percentage. It’s an elite perimeter offense that thrives from drive and kick and few players in the entire country are flying more under the radar than star man Jalen Williams.
This is a battle of slow-paced and fast-paced teams. Santa Clara is 24th in adjusted tempo and Saint Mary’s ranks 335th.
While Santa Clara’s defense in the halfcourt is just fine, the Gaels are just 238th in defensive transition ShotQuality allowed. If the Broncos can run, they’re live to win this game. They’ve got the considerably more explosive offense and their season-long metrics sell them short because of early season injuries.
The Pick: Santa Clara +5 or better