Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga Prediction: Look for the Bulldogs to Make a Statement in the WCC Final

College basketball expert Mike Spector offers his best bet for the West Coast Conference Championship between the Saint Mary's Gaels and Gonzaga Bulldogs.
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Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga Prediction: Look for the Bulldogs to Make a Statement in the WCC Final

For the ninth time in the last 13 years, the West Coast Conference Championship pits the Saint Mary’s Gaels against the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Gaels have had their share of success in that span, winning three times. Saint Mary’s is also looking to beat Gonzaga for the second straight time, following their 67-57 victory in the regular-season finale.

Are the Bulldogs again vulnerable, or will they prove why they are worthy of the No. 1 overall seed entering the NCAA Tournament?  

Here are our picks and predictions for the West Coast Conference Championship between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Saint Mary’s Gaels.

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Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga Prediction

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Both Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga had byes to the semifinals of this tournament, so each should have relatively fresh legs tonight. One could argue that Gonzaga had the tougher draw in the semifinals despite being the No. 1 seed, as they faced San Francisco instead of Santa Clara. However, the Bulldogs were given a gift when the Dons ruled out big man Yauhen Massalski, who suffered a knee injury late in their win over BYU on Saturday night. Without Massalski’s elite rim protection, Gonzaga’s ultra-talented frontcourt of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren combined for 39 points on an efficient 15-for-19 from 2-point range. 

Saint Mary’s is one of the only teams with the size to match Gonzaga’s front line, and they forced the Bulldogs big men into their worst games of the season in their last matchup. Holmgren and Timme combined for just 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting in the regular-season finale, and Gonzaga as a team scored a season-low 57 points. To put that in perspective, the Bulldogs had been held to fewer than 70 points on just two other occasions up to that point.

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Gonzaga typically has the experience factor at this stage over most teams, with this being their mind-boggling 25th consecutive appearance in the WCC title game. Unfortunately, that edge is negated against a Saint Mary’s team that is almost as much of a fixture in this championship round of late. But where the Bulldogs do have an edge is that they seemingly have much more to play for.

In most years, Saint Mary’s feels they are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives in the WCC final, given that they typically do not have that strong of an at-large resume at this point in the season. However, the Gaels are safely in the field with several bracketologists pegging them for as high as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed, while the Bulldogs possibly have the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament at stake. 

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The atmosphere in Moraga on Senior Night for the regular-season finale was absolute pandemonium and likely aided in the Gaels’ big win. However, the Las Vegas crowd for this tournament has been pro-Gonzaga, making it feel like a borderline home game for the Bulldogs. In addition, Gonzaga has won 23 of its last 24 conference tournament games, which speaks to their overall dominance.

Gonzaga’s defense has been elite all season, especially lately, allowing just 63.8 PPG over the last nine games. In addition, no team other than San Francisco has been able to crack 70 points against them in that span. One has to expect a much better game from Holmgren and Timme this time around, which all adds up to a Gonzaga cover.  

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Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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