Pick – Analysis
In Gonzaga’s quest to be a No. 1 seed for March Madness, this could be its final test of the regular season. The Zags travel to St. Mary’s, the second-best team in the West Coast Conference.
Even with a loss here, the Bulldogs could still grab a 1-seed in the Tourney, considering they have just one loss all season and it was an overtime Game at Arizona. They were a 1-seed two years ago, but no one really thought they deserved it and ended up losing in their second Game to Wichita State. This team is different and deserves the respect.
The Zags have carved through almost every opponent on the Schedule including wins against SMU, Georgia, St. John’s and UCLA early in the season. Even in Conference play, they haven’t really been challenged. They already beat this St. Mary’s team by 21 at home. Will it be any different on the Gaels’ home cOurt?
A win here for St. Mary’s would be huge because they are on the outside of the bubble at the moment, as they don’t really have any quality non-Conference wins despite a solid overall record. It doesn’t help that their home cOurt advantage isn’t all that great, with a couple losses to Northern Arizona and more recently Pepperdine this season.
Gonzaga is so good because they have a complete team that can score from all spots on the floor, much like Duke. Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis can hold their own in the paint, while Kyle Wiltjer is an experienced big man that stretches the floor. Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos have led the backcOurt for Four years now and combine to make one of the best duos in the country. Pangos is a great PG that doesn’t turn it over and can shoot efficiently. Byron Wesley is another transfer that used to be one of USC’s best players, but now doesn’t have to play that role at small forward.
Beating Gonzaga requires a total team effort and that’s not exactly what St. Mary’s is about. Senior big man Brad Waldow, who has gradually increased his productivity and usage rate in all Four years with the team, leads the Gaels. He’s averaging 20 points and 9.2 boards per Game, yet in the first Game only finished with 14 and 7 and Four fouls. When opposing teams have the size to deal with Waldow and can attack him on both ends, that means trouble for the Gaels. The Zags have just that, and that was pretty much the end of the Game as they attacked Waldow more in the second half of that first meeting.
It also doesn’t help that two of St. Mary’s players finished 0-for-7 from the floor. For them to even have a shot of winning, someone outside of Waldow will have to step up. No one had more than eight points outside of Waldow in that last Game. Their trio of guards in Kerry Carter (12.2 ppg), Aaron Bright (10.6 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Emmett Naar (4.5 apg) are the route to success. But that’s still asking for a lot when the Gaels are outmatched at every position, as well as on the bench.
Gonzaga may get a scare here, but even on the road, this team is too strong to fall in possibly its biggest Conference Game of the year.
Our Prediction – Gonzaga by 11