WCC - Gonzaga vs. BYU
March 6, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Editor's note: Brian Edwards has cashed his guaranteed plays at a 41-27-1 clip (60.3%, +12.23 Units!) since Dec. 8, so don't miss out on tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
There are four givens in life: Death, taxes, Kansas Big 12 regular-season titles and Gonzaga appearances in the WCC Tournament finals. For the 21st consecutive season, Mark Few’s storied program will battle for the conference’s automatic bid tonight when it faces BYU at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
BetOnline.ag opened Gonzaga as an 8.5-point favorite with a total of 143 very late last night. However, as of mid-morning, most spots had the Bulldogs favored by 9.5-point with the total at 144 or 144.5. The Cougars were available to win outright for a +400 return (risk $100 to win $400).
Gonzaga (29-4 straight up, 13-16 against the spread) has won 16 straight games at this event and 13 in a row this season after disposing of San Francisco last night by an 88-60 count as a 13-point ‘chalk.’ The 146 combined points climbed ‘over’ the 142-point total.
Killian Tillie was the catalyst against the Dons, scoring 26 points on a nearly perfect display in the box score. Tillie drained 10-of-11 field-goal attempts, all five of his launches from 3-point land and his lone free throw. Rui Hachimura added 17 points on 7-of-7 makes from the charity stripe, while Zach Norvell Jr. buried 4-of-8 triples in a 14-point effort. Johnathan Williams finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and one blocked shot.
Few’s team hasn’t tasted defeat since Jan. 18 when the Gaels came into Spokane and won a 74-71 decision over the Bulldogs as 7.5-point road underdogs. Since then, Gonzaga has won 10 of 13 games by double-digit margins, 12 times by at least eight points and every game by at least five. Nevertheless, with a lot of double-digit ‘chalk’ spots, the ‘Zags are mired in a 4-11 ATS slump in their past 15 contests.
Williams, the senior center, paces the Bulldogs in scoring (13.6 points per game), rebounding (8.1 RPG) and blocked shots (1.2 BPG). Tillie averages 13.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.0 BPG while burying 58.9 percent of his FGAs and 48.8 percent of his 3-balls.
Josh Perkins, the junior guard who joined Williams as one of only two returning starters from last year’s national runner-up that lost a nail-biter to North Carolina in the finals, is averaging 12.4 points PPG while hitting 41.8 percent of his 3-pointers and posting a 174/70 assist-to-turnover ratio. Perkins is also tied with Norvell (12.0 PPG) for a team-best 39 steals.
Gonzaga has been a single-digit favorite six times this year, producing a 4-2 record both SU and ATS. The Bulldogs are ranked sixth in the country in the latest Associated Press Top 25, seventh at KenPom.com and 30th in the RPI Rankings. They’re 1-1 vs. the RPI Top 25, 4-3 against the Top 50 and 7-4 versus the Top 100.
Few’s team has home wins over Creighton and BYU, road victories at Saint Mary’s, at Washington and at BYU, in addition to neutral-court scalps of Ohio State and Texas. The ‘Zags lost by two at San Diego State, by six to Florida in double overtime at the PK80 Invitational in Portland, by three at home to Saint Mary’s and by 16 to Villanova in New York.
BYU (24-9 SU, 16-14 ATS) advanced to tonight’s finals by pulling a moderate upset over Saint Mary’s in last night’s semifinals showdown. The Cougars led by four at intermission and never let Randy Bennett’s team get closer than one in the second half. They won outright as 5.5-point underdogs, while the 157 combined points catapulted ‘over’ the 137-point total.
Dave Rose’s team features a pair of first team All-WCC selections in junior guard Elijah Bryant and sophomore forward Yoeli Childs, who dropped a career-high 33 points on the Gaels last night. Childs made 13-of-18 FGAs, all three of his 3-point attempts and all four of his shots from the charity stripe. Bryant finished with 25 points and five rebounds against Saint Mary’s, as the Cougars converted 61.1 percent of their shots from the field.
T.J. Haws, the younger brother of BYU legend and all-time leading scorer Tyler Haws, who passed another school legend in Jimmer Fredette to leave his spot atop the school’s record books in 2015, is now a stellar sophomore guard in Provo. T.J. Haws made his presence felt last night by scoring 11 points and dishing out seven assists without a turnover. He buried 5-of-8 FGAs.
BYU advanced to the semifinals with Saturday’s 85-79 non-covering victory over San Diego as a 4.5-point favorite. The Cougars disappointed their backers immensely after leading by as many as 17 over the Toreros at the under-12 television timeout nearly midway through the second half.
Childs is having quite the Tournament, scoring 22 points and pulling down eight rebounds vs. USD. Bryant had a game-high 27 points on a remarkable shooting night, as he hit 10-of-13 FGAs and 3-of-4 from downtown. Haws was also in double figures with 13 points.
BYU has been an underdog eight times, posting a 3-4 spread record with two outright victories.
When these teams met in Provo for both school’s regular-season finales, Gonzaga raced out to a 14-point advantage and led by double digits for a good chunk of the first half. But BYU made a late first-half push with a 16-6 run to slice the deficit to two, only for the Bulldogs to hit a late trifecta for a 43-38 intermission lead.
The Bulldogs pulled away in the first 11 minutes of the second half with a 26-10 surge to build the lead to 21 points. They eventually won by a 79-65 count as six-point road ‘chalk,’ while the 144 combined points inched ‘over’ the 143-point tally.
Six Gonzaga players scored in double figures with Williams leading the balanced offensive attack with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and a pair of rejections. Perkins contributed 14 points, seven assists, six boards and two steals. He buried 5-of-7 FGAs and 4-of-6 from long distance. In the losing effort, Childs had 19 points and eight rebounds, while Bryant finished with 16 points, four boards, three assists and two steals.
The first encounter between these teams went down in Spokane, where BYU had won three in a row, including a 79-71 triumph last season when Gonzaga was the nation’s top-ranked team with a 29-0 record. But there would be no fourth straight win for the Cougars at McCarthey Athletic Center on Feb. 3.
Gonzaga certainly didn’t run away from BYU, leading by 10 at halftime but never by more than 11 in a 68-60 win. The Cougars took the cash as 12-point road underdogs. Hachimura made 6-of-9 FGAs in a team-best 15-point effort, while Perkins finished with 14 points and seven assists compared to just one turnover. Williams added 13 points and 10 boards.
For BYU, Haws had 22 points and four assists. Luke Worthington scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, while Childs tallied 14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot. Bryant had a nightmare performance, scoring a season-low four points on 1-of-11 shooting from the field and 0-of-8 marksmanship from 3-point territory. In the eight games since then, Bryant has scored at least 14 points in every game and 25 or more three times.
The ‘over’ is on an 11-3-2 run for the Cougars to improve to 15-13-2 overall. Meanwhile, the ‘over’ has cashed in four consecutive contests for the ‘Zags to improve to 15-15 overall.
According to Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ updated at ESPN.com this morning, Gonzaga is slotted as a fifth see that would take on New Mexico State in San Diego in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If the Bulldogs were to advances, they would collide with the 4/13 survivor of Arizona-South Dakota State. If form were to hold, the winner would be looking at a showdown with top-seeded Kansas in the West Region semifinals.
As for Saint Mary’s, Lunardi has it among his teams with the Last Four Byes. This means the Gaels wouldn’t have to play in the First Four in Dayton. They are slotted to face Texas A&M in a 7/10 matchup with the winner advancing to meet the 2/15 survivor of Purdue-Wright State in Detroit.
BYU is destined for an NIT bid if it can’t pull the upset over Gonzaga tonight. Fans of bubble schools are rooting for the Bulldogs in order that the Cougars don’t steal one of the last coveted bids.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Gonzaga’s Tillie, who celebrated his 20th birthday with last night’s 26-point effort, has knocked down 11 straight 3-balls dating back to his team’s regular-season finale win at BYU.
-- Georgia Tech and Boston College will get the 2018 ACC Tournament underway at noon Eastern today in Brooklyn at Barclays Center. As of early this morning, the Eagles were favored by 3.5 points at most shops. The Yellow Jackets have won back-to-back game and have covered the number in four straight outings. BC was only favored by 2.5 points until star player Jerome Robinson (elbow) was upgraded to ‘probable’ earlier today. Robinson averages 29.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.4 APG. BC’s Steffon Mitchell (6.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.1 BPG & 1.0 SPG) remains ‘questionable’ with a hamstring injury.
-- Lunardi’s latest looks like this for bubble teams:
Last Four Byes: Kansas State, Saint Mary’s, Providence and Baylor.
Last Four In: Texas, USC, UCLA and Alabama.
First Four Out: Louisville, Marquette, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame.
Next Four Out: Syracuse, Penn State, Boise State and Nebraska.
-- Notre Dame is now 12-4 with a healthy Bonzie Colson, who has returned from a broken foot to play the last two games. He had 24 points and 15 rebounds in Saturday’s 62-57 loss at Virginia. Say what you want about the bubble teams, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the Fighting Irish is the one that could cause the most damage if it gets a bid. Mike Brey’s team is a 17-point favorite vs. Pittsburgh in the second game of today’s afternoon session in Brooklyn. Once Notre Dame brings Pitt’s nightmare season to an end this afternoon, it’ll move on to face Virginia Tech on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.
-- If you missed it over the weekend, free-agent head coach Thad Matta reportedly met with Ole Miss officials about its vacant job.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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