Gonzaga just received some bad news about Killian Tillie (out for rest of the regular season), but that doesn’t matter at this point since it’s played most of the season without him. The Bulldogs have coasted through the WCC, winning their last few Games by huge margins. In fact, they’ve won every Conference Game by at least 13 points and Four of their last five by at least 30 points.
That’s not great news for Loyola Marymount, though it already knows that since these teams met less than a month ago. Some could lean toward the Lions in this Game because they covered in the previous meeting. However, while LMU covered as a 23.5-point underdog in a 73-55 loss, that was mainly because Gonzaga didn’t do anything in the final 10 minutes. The Zags went up 60-31 and then let up and that’s why they couldn’t get the road cover. Given how dominant Gonzaga has been in recent Games, there’s a chance it won’t let up this time and that’s a problem for Loyola.
The Lions don’t have bad numbers, but they also don’t have many good ones. They’ve already lost at home to St. Mary’s and San Diego and if Gonzaga gets another 30-point lead, it may not give it up this time. In that first meeting, Loyola leading scorer James Batemon (16.8 ppg) was the only one to surpass eight points and that’s kind of how it’s been all season. Batemon runs the show, but no one else can consistently score, and that includes the second-leading scorer Mattias Markusson, who has just 19 points in the last three Games.
That won’t work for Loyola in this matchup, especially if Gonzaga plays its Game. Batemon has to deal with Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell on the perimeter, and as long as those guys put in their usual effort, it could be trouble for the home team, which is how this Game will be decided. If Gonzaga wants to, it could easily go up by 30 points in the first half, but covering will come down to motivation in the second. In previous Games, the opponent was down by too much to have a chance, and that’s the hope for Gonzaga backers.
While Markusson has size for Loyola, he doesn’t have the athleticism to deal with Rui Hachimura. Everyone on Gonzaga did what they wanted in the first meeting with Four guys in double figures helped by 65.6% from two-paint range. If they can make a few more shots from distance, that’ll be even more trouble for Loyola. But like most teams in the WCC, the Lions don’t have the talent to deal with everything Gonzaga puts on the floor. Brandon Clarke (16.8 ppg), Hachimura (20.2 ppg) and Norvell (15.6 ppg) can get their shots against anyone, while Perkins (6.8 apg) sets the table as the point guard. With all of these guys working in unison, it’s led to the most efficient offense in the country, shooting better than 60 percent from inside the arc.
Loyola wants to play slow, but that method doesn’t work if you’re at a disadvantage at every position. As long as the Zags play like they have in the last few weeks, this one should be over before the break and the hope for bettors is that they don’t completely take their foot off the pedal and let the underdog cover again.
Our Pick – Gonzaga -19.5