#2 Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-2) vs BYU Cougars (20-9)
Thursday February 28
Marriott Center – Provo, UT
Moneyline: No ML currently listed
Spread: Gonzaga -6
That is not a mistake, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are the second ranked team in the nation. They are undefeated in West Coast Conference and have rattled off 10 wins in a row since they last lost at Butler. The first of those wins was a home blowout of BYU by 20 points. With Indiana and Michigan already losing this week there is the very real prospect that this “mid major” from the WCC could be the top ranked team in the nation.
It is no fluke either. Center Kelly Olynyk is one of the most productive bigs in the nation this year averaging 17 points and 7 board which don’t blow you away but when you factor in that he plays just 25 minutes per game – they are just awesome. I also love their backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell. Neither are big but they make smart plays more often than not and can shoot. Senior forward Elias Harris provides veteran leadership and is hungry too.
Gonzaga is a good bet – 15-11 ATS. A look at their conference results shows only two games where the spread has been as close as the -6 they are getting right now. Both were victories, one at home and one on the road, while being ATS losses. When St. Mary’s pushed the Zags it wasn’t a total surprise, this one might be.
This game is a huge opportunity for the Cougars. They have already notched 20 victories but none are of the signature variety. They are in third place in the WCC and are 0-3 against the top two teams – Gonzaga and St. Mary’s. A win over the Zags would punch their ticket for sure and the Marriott Center, which is an underrated place to play, should be rocking on Thursday night. There will be electricity in the air.
The Cougars have some nice headliners but not nearly as much depth as the Zags. Guard Tyler Haws is one of the more unsung players in the nation. He is 11th in scoring, part of a very small group of players averaging more than 20ppg. Power forward Brandon Davies received attention a couple of years ago for an honour code violation and has evolved to become a very effective power forward, averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds per game. After those two regular production is spotty.
In their first game against Gonzaga the Cougars were 10 point dogs and lost by 20. A similar doubling seems very likely unless they can use the homecourt advantage and some great shooting to press the Zags. If they can keep it close maybe the Zags makes a mistake. They might be number 1 next week but they aren’t there yet. Can they keep it together.
Spread Pick: Gonzaga -6
O/U Pick: Under
Score Prediction: Gonzaga 80 – BYU 63