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Gonzaga-Saint Marys matchup is WCC heavyweight title bout

Matt Youmans  
VSiN senior editor

February 10, 2018 08:07 AM

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A year after Gonzaga reached its first Final Four, coach Mark Few and the Bulldogs are underdogs in a conference rivalry they usually dominate.

In a role reversal, Mark Few is running second in the West Coast Conference, and it’s Gonzaga seeking revenge against rival Saint Mary’s.

The Gaels are the dominant team, with the nation’s longest win streak at 19 games, and boast the top player in the conference in 6-foot-11 senior Jock Landale. A year after reaching their first Final Four, the Bulldogs are underdogs again.

It’s time to rumble, so cue Michael Buffer. This is a WCC heavyweight title fight worthy of the hype. Saint Mary’s is ranked No. 11, Gonzaga is No. 12, and Saturday night’s winner will move into the Top 10.

Randy Bennett has coached several good Gaels teams, but this is his best. Landale, a low-post beast from Australia, has made Saint Mary’s (24-2, 13-0) unstoppable in a little league with few quality big men. The Zags had no answer for him the first time around.

The Gaels upset the Zags 74-71 on Jan. 18, when Landale totaled 26 points and 12 rebounds. Few will send three defenders — 6-10 Killian Tillie, 6-9 Johnathan Williams and 6-8 Rui Hachimura — at Landale and hope to get lucky. But the Zags also need much better play from their guards, especially junior Josh Perkins, who shot a pathetic 1-for-9 in the first meeting.

Ken Pomeroy’s (Kenpom.com) analytics show Gonzaga is actually the higher-rated team overall (No. 9) with a better defensive efficiency rating. The Zags probably will be a public ‘dog, which is usually a bad sign, but the conference revenge angle is the buy sign in this situation.

With 108 college basketball games on the betting board today, here are eight plays (rotation numbers listed):

543-Kansas (-1½) over BAYLOR; 565-Kentucky (plus-5) over TEXAS A&M; 576-AIR FORCE (plus-4) over New Mexico; 590-NOTRE DAME (-2) over Florida State; 622-MICHIGAN STATE (-3) over Purdue; 623-Virginia Tech (plus-12) over VIRGINIA; 635-Ucla (plus-3½) over ARIZONA STATE; 679-Gonzaga (plus-2) over SAINT MARY’S.

Last week: 6-4 against the spread

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