College Hoops Picks: #2 Gonzaga Bulldogs at Brigham Young Cougars

#2 Gonzaga Bulldogs at Brigham Young Cougars
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 11:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Marriott Center – Provo, Utah
Opening Line: Gonzaga -6
Current Line: Gonzaga -5
Opening Total: 147
Current Total: 145 1/2
Opening Money Line: Gonzaga -260 / BYU +220
Current Money Line: Gonzaga -230 / BYU +190

Gonzaga is a 5 point favorite at BYU Thursday. The Bulldogs can clinch the WCC title outright with a win.
Gonzaga is a 5 point favorite at BYU Thursday. The Bulldogs can clinch the WCC title outright with a win.

Since Gonzaga made an unlikely run to the Elite Eight in the 1999 NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs have been a fixture in the NCAA tournament every year. One thing they have never done in that stretch in go to the Final Four. That could change this year as the 27-2 Bulldogs are ranked #2 in the country and could be in line for a Number one seed in the tournament. However, one loss would jeopardize their chances of being a #1 seed. The Bulldogs are 14-0 in the West Coast Conference, a game and a half ahead of 13-2 St. Mary’s. Gonzaga is one of 5 undefeated teams in conference play along with Memphis (C-USA), Akron (MAC), Norfolk St (MEAC), and Lousisiana Tech (WAC).

Gonzaga has 2 games left in the regular season before the WCC  tournament next week in Las Vegas. The Bulldogs travel to 20-9 BYU Thursday night before a home game Saturday against Portland. Gonzaga has already clinched at least a share of the West Coast title, and will clinch it outright with a win in either of their last 2 games. BYU is 9-5 in conference and is currently in third, a game ahead of Santa Clara. The Cougars are a marginal bubble team for the NCAA tournament, and will likely have to win the WCC tournament to get in.

Gonzaga leads the series 4-2 against BYU, but is 0-1 in Provo. Five of the six meetings in the series have occurred in the last 3 seasons. BYU joined the West Coast Conference last season after many years in the Mountain West and WAC. Gonzaga won easily 83-63 when the teams met last month in Spokane. The Bulldogs took an early 15-8 lead and never looked back in game. They took a 40-21 lead going into halftime. BYU pulled to within 13 points in the second half but would get no closer. It was the third straight win for Gonzaga in the series.

Gonzaga is coached by Mark Few. The Bulldogs have losses at home to Illinois and at Butler. Gonzaga has won 10 straight games since the Butler loss. The Bulldogs have key wins over West Virginia at home, Clemson, Oklahoma & Davidson in a tournament in Orlando, Pacific, at Washington St, Kansas St in Seattle, Baylor, at Oklahoma St, Pepperdine, Santa Clara twice, and at Portland,St. Mary’s twice, San Francisco twice, and Loyola Marymount. Gonzaga beat San Diego at home Saturday 81-50. The Bulldogs are 15-11-1 ATS and the total is 8-16 this season.

Gonzaga is outscoring teams 79-60. The Bulldogs are #9 in scoring nationally, and #37 in points allowed. Gonzaga is #2 in field goal percentage making 50.9% of their shots, and #24 in three point shooting at 38.6% from 3 point range. The Bulldogs make 71.3% of their free throws. Gonzaga averages 37.2 rebounds, and give up 25.2 per game. The Bulldogs are #2 in rebounds allowed nationally. Gonzaga opponents are shooting 38.9% from the field and 32.1% from 3 point range. Gonzaga is #29 in opponent’s field goal percentage. The Bulldogs average 15 assists, 8 steals, 2 blocks, and 12 turnovers per game.

Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk averages 17.7 points, 7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. Forward Elias Harris averages 14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.1 steals. Guard Kevin Pangos averages 12 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Guard Gary Bell, Jr. averages 8.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. Forward/center Sam Dower averages 7.3 points, and 2.9 rebounds per game. Przemek Karnowski averages 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. Guy Landry Edi, David Stockton, Kyle Dranginis, and Mike Hart make up the rest of the rotation.

BYU is coached by Dave Rose. The Cougars have losses to Florida St and Notre Dame in a tournament in Brooklyn, at Iowa St, Baylor, to St. Mary’s twice at San Diego, and at home to San Francisco. The Cougars lost at St. Mary’s last Thursday 64-57.  BYU has key wins over UTSA, CS-Northridge, Montana, Utah, Weber St, Virginia Tech, Loyola Marymount, San Francisco, Pepperdine twice, Santa Clara twice, Portland twice, Utah St and San Diego. BYU is 13-15 ATS and the total is 8-12 this season.

BYU is outscoring teams 77-69 this season. The Cougars are #15 in scoring nationally. BYU is shooting 46.1% from the field and 33.3% from 3 point range. The Cougars make 72.6% of their free throws. BYU is #40 in rebounding with 38 per game, and they give up 31.9 per game. Cougar opponents are shooting 42.4% from the field and 32.4% from 3 point range. BYU averages 16 assists, 9 steals, 3 blocks, and 12 turnovers per game.

Guard Tyler Hawes averages 20.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Forward Brandon Davies averages 18 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. Guard Matt Carlino averages 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2 steals per game. Guard Brock Zylstra averages 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal per game. Josh Sharp, Craig Cusick, and Nate Austin also get significant minutes, but none of them average more than 4.6 points per game.

Gonzaga is 6-0 ATS in Thursday games, 5-2-1 ATS against teams with winning records, 1-5 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, and 1-6-1 after a cover. The favorite is 5-0 ATS in the last 5 in this series.

BYU is 7-3 ATS against teams with winning records, 16-35 after a cover, 8-18 in Thursday games, and 1-4 overall. The home team has covered the last 5 in this series.

BYU used to be almost invincible at home. While Provo is still a tough place to play, the Cougars have losses to St. Mary’s and San Francisco this season at home. Gonzaga simply has too much for BYU and will win this game. St. Mary’s hung tough for a while at home against Gonzaga but still ended up losing by 17 points. In Gonzaga’s 14 conference wins, only 3 have been decided by  10 points or less. BYU keeps it close for  a while, but Gonzaga pulls away late.

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