West Coast Conference Championship: Gonzaga Bulldogs vs St. Mary’s Gaels

2012 West Coast Conference Championship
#2 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs #1 St. Mary’s Gaels
Orleans Arena – Las Vegas, Nevada
Monday, March 5, 2012, 9:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Gonzaga -1 1/2
Current Line: Gonzaga -2 1/2
Opening Total: 134 1/2
Current Total: 133 1/2
Opening Money Line: Gonzaga -135 / St. Mary’s +115
Current Money Line: Gonzaga -145 / St. Mary’s  +125

Gonzaga and St. Mary's meet for the fourth straight year in the WCC Championship game Monday night in Las Vegas. Gonzaga is a slight favorite.

When BYU joined the WCC this season, many thought they would break the stranglehold that Gonzaga and St. Mary’s have had on the conference for the last decade. It didn’t quite work out that way as the Bulldogs and Gaels meet again for the WCC title for the fourth straight year. Both 25-5 Gonzaga and 26-5 St. Mary’s are expected to make the NCAA tournament field whether they win or lose. St. Mary’s won the WCC regular season title outright with a 14-2 record, and Gonzaga was 13-3 to finish second. It snapped a string of 11 straight regular season titles for Gonzaga, and the first outright title for St. Mary’s since 1989

The Gaels are ranked #18 in the latest poll, and have won 3 games in a row. St. Mary’s beat San Francisco 83-78 Saturday night in the semifinals of the WCC tournament. Gonzaga is ranked #25, and has won 4 straight games including a 77-58 win over BYU in the semis Saturday night. Both Gonzaga and St Mary’s got byes into the semifinals.

Gonzaga leads the series against St. Mary’s 54-26, including 10-1 in the WCC tournament. The two teams split the series this season with each team winning by double digits on their own home court. St. Mary’s won in Moraga 83-62 in mid-January, and Gonzaga won 73-59 in Spokane last month. This is the 12th time in the last 4 years these two teams are playing.

Gonzaga is coached by Mark Few. The Bulldogs have wins over Washington St, Hawaii, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Oral Roberts, Arizona, Butler, Air Force, Xavier, BYU twice, San Francisco, and Loyola Marymount twice. Gonzaga has losses to Illinois, Michigan St, BYU, and San Francisco.

St. Mary’s is coached by Randy Bennett. The Gaels have wins over Northern Iowa, Weber St, Missouri St, BYU twice, San Francisco 3 times, and loyola Marymount. St. Mary’s has losses to Denver, Baylor, Loyola Marymount, and Murray St.

Gonzaga is outscoring opponents 74-63 this season. The Bulldogs are shooting 47.5% from the field including 38.2% from 3 point range. Gonzaga is shooting 71.3% from the free throw line. The Bulldogs average 37.2 rebounds a game, and has a rebounding margin of +7. Gonzaga averages 13.7 assists, 13.5 turnovers, 6.8 steals, and 3.3 blocks a games. Gonzaga opponents are shooting 41.2% from the field, including 31.1% from 3 point range. Gonzaga forces 13.2 turnovers a game.

Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos is averaging 14 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists , and 1.1 steals a game. Pangos leads the Bulldogs in scoring, assists, and steals with 1.1 a game, and also is making 42.3% of his 3 point shots. Elias Harris averages 12.8 points, 8.6 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.3 assists a game. Center Robert Sacre is averaging 11.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks a game to lead the team. Gary Bell, Jr. averages 10.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists a game. He makes 47.9% of his three point shots. Sam Dower averages 8.3 rebounds and 3.8 rebounds  a game.

St. Mary’s is outscoring opponents 75-62 this season. The Gaels are shooting 47.6% from the field and 35% from 3 point range. St. Mary’s makes 72.7% of their free throws. The Gaels average 36.5 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +7.3. St. Mary’s averages 16.1 assists, 11.6 turnovers, 7.1 steals, and 3.2 blocks a game. Gael opponents are shooting 42.7% from the field, and 36.7% from 3 point range. St. Mary’s forces 12.1 turnovers a game.

St. Mary’s  guard Matthew Dellavedova averages 15.4 points to lead the team, 3.3 rebounds, and 6.5 assists to lead the team. He makes 36.1% of his 3 point shots. Forward Rob Jones averages 14.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals a game. He leads the Gaels in rebounds.  Stephen Holt averages 10.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals a game to lead the team. He is out with a knee injury but hopes to return for the NCAA tournament after missing the last 4 games. Clint Steindl, Jorden Page, and Brad Waldow also play significant minutes. Waldow leads the Gaels in blocks with 1 game. Guard Paul McCoy is out for the season.

St. Mary’s is 12-13 ATS and the total is also 12-13 this season. Gonzaga is 13-15-1 ATS and the total is 7-21-1 this season. The under is 5-2 in the last 7 in this series. The Bulldogs are 5-0 ATS as a neutral site favorite, 4-0 in neutral site games, 4-1 against teams with winning straight up records, and as a favorite of 6.5 points or less, 4-9-1 overall, and in WCC games, and 3-8 after a straight up win. The Gaels 7-2 ATS in Monday games, 2-5 in WCC games, 4-11 in neutral site games as an underdog, 2-6 overall, 1-3-1 in neutral site games, 1-4 after failing to cover, as an underdog, after a straight up win, against teams with winning records, and as an underdog of 6.5 points or less.

The loss of Holt hurts St. Mary’s, while Gonzaga is relatively healthy. These two teams just plain don’t like each other. It makes for some intense basketball, and this game should be no exception. I think the Bulldogs pull out a close game.

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