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Best of the Rest March Madness Report: Don’t Miss The Clash of the WCC Titans

Marquette Closing in on Big East Title

There’s little debate about which game among the teams not in the Power-5 conferences has the most intrigue.

Saint Mary’s can put an end to Gonzaga’s run at the top of the West Coast Conference standings with a win over the Bulldogs on Saturday night. Both the Gaels and Bulldogs took care of business with convincing wins on Thursday night. It is a game worth staying up for.

Malachi Smith #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs
Malachi Smith #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs - Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images/AFP

Barring upsets, things should be much different when it comes to the pecking order in the Big East once the weekend is over, while Houston looks to stay on top of the national polls with another road victory.

Houston is first in both national polls and received 72 first-place votes in the national rankings.

Marquette is ninth in the coaches poll and 10th in the Associated Press poll. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are 12th and 15th in the AP poll, with the Gaels 14th in the coaches poll. In the writers’ poll, Xavie, UConn, Creighton, and Providence come in at No. 16, 18, 19, and 20, respectively.

According to the college basketball playoff odds, Houston (+700) has the best odds to win the national title. UConn (+2000), Gonzaga (+2500), Creighton (+3000), Marquette (+3300), Saint Mary’s (+3300), and Xavier (+4000) are among the other contenders from non-Power-5 conferences.

Houston leads the NCAA NET rankings even though the Cougars have played just four Quad 1 games. No. 7 Saint Mary’s, No. 8 UConn, No. 10 Gonzaga, No. 13 Marquette, No. 14 Creighton, and No. 16 San Diego State are other non-Power-5 teams in great shape to get quality seeds when the March Madness odds bracket comes out.

Here’s a look at the upcoming games for the ranked teams for the programs outside of the Power-5 conferences.

Game of the Week

Saint Mary’s vs Gonzaga

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Feb. 25, 10:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

It might take a while to find a more high-profile game in the West Coast Conference in recent years.

Gonzaga has won the WCC regular-season title outright in each of the last five seasons. However, a loss on Saturday would end that run.

The Gaels shared the WCC crown with Gonzaga during the 2015-16 campaign but haven’t had the championship all to themselves since the 2011-12 season.

Saint Mary’s clinched a share of the WCC title with its 83-52 win over Pacific. Logan Johnson led the way with 29 points.

Drew Timme had 22 points and 13 rebounds in Gonzaga’s 97-72 win over San Diego,

Saint Mary’s won the first meeting against Gonzaga 78-70 in overtime behind 15 points and 11 rebounds from Mitchell Saxen.

The Gaels have won two of the last three games against Gonzaga. However, both of those games have come at home. The last win at Spokane came in 2019.

The Gaels are 18-11 against the college basketball odds, the best mark among WCC teams.

Other Games To Watch

Xavier vs Seton Hall

  • Date, time (TV): Friday, Feb. 24, 7:00 p.m. ET (FS1)

Xavier is one of two Big East teams with winning road records and will look to add another win against the Pirates.

The Musketeers are 3-3 since Zach Freemantle went out of the lineup. Souley Boum has attempted to make up for Freemantle’s absence as he has averaged 16.8 points with 16 3-pointers over the last six games for Xavier (20-8, 12-5).

Points have been hard to come by for Seton Hall, which has been held under 70 points in four of its last five games. The Pirates are 6 of 23 from 3-point range in the last two games.

Xavier is looking to sweep the season series against Seton Hall for the first time since the 2017-18 season after a 73-70 win at home as an eight-point favorite.

Three of the last four games between the Musketeers and Pirates finished over the total.

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UConn vs St. John’s

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Feb. 25, Noon ET (CBS)

UConn is coming off a huge win over Providence, rebounding from an earlier loss to the Friars. The Huskies try to do the same when they meet the Red Storm.

Jordan Hawkins has at least two 3-pointers in each of the last 10 games with seven 20-point games during that stretch for the Huskies (21-7, 10-7).

St. John’s has won three of its last four games with Joel Soriano averaging 15.7 points and 12.3 rebounds in those three victories. He had 19 points and 13 rebounds in the first meeting against UConn.

UConn has failed to cover in each of the last eight meetings with St. John’s. Half of those matchups came from 2010-13 as UConn didn’t face St. John’s during its time in the American Athletic Conference.

The Red Storm came into Connecticut and handed the Huskies an 11-point loss at home while being listed by the sportsbook as a 14½-point underdog on Jan. 15.

Creighton vs Villanova

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Feb. 25, 7:00 p.m. ET (FS1)

This is a pretty dangerous game for Creighton, especially with Justin Moore now back with the Wildcats.

Moore is averaging 12.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in the eight games he has played for Villanova. The Wildcats have won four of the last five games and the last three at home.

Creighton (18-10, 12-5) is in a three-way tie for second place in the Big East standings.

The Bluejays have dropped two of their last three games with 29 turnovers in those two losses.

Each of the last three games in the series finished under the total.

When the teams met in Omaha on Feb. 4, Trey Alexander had 27 points in Creighton’s 66-61 win. The Bluejays haven’t won back-to-back games in the same season against Villanova in nine years.

DePaul vs Marquette

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1)

Marquette looks to take another step toward winning the Big East regular-season title against a DePaul team that has lost nine straight games.

Point guard Tyler Kolek has scored in double figures in each of his last seven games and is also averaging 6.7 assists during that stretch for Marquette (22-6, 14-3).

Nick Ongenda recently made his season debut and he is contributing 7.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in the three games he has played to give DePaul another option in the post.

Each of the last four games between Marquette and DePaul ended up going over the total. The Golden Eagles won three of those contests and covered in each of those victories.

Marquette leads the Big East with an 18-9-1 record against the college basketball betting lines.

David Joplin #23 of the Marquette Golden Eagles - Patrick McDermott/AFP
David Joplin #23 of the Marquette Golden Eagles – Patrick McDermott/AFP

Houston vs East Carolina

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Feb. 25, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Houston has already clinched at least a share of the regular-season title in the American Athletic Conference. However, the Cougars have bigger goals in mind as they eye a No. 1 seed when the March Madness bracket comes out.

East Carolina is eighth in the conference standings. However, the Pirates are 9-5 at home as they prepare to face their first-ranked opponent this season.

Houston (26-2, 14-1) would like to get freshman Jarace Walker going a bit as he has just 33 points in the last four games. He is 6 of 18 from the field in the last two games and 1 of 8 on 3-pointers.

Houston is 10-1 in the last 11 games against East Carolina but is 7-3-1 against the Las Vegas odds in those matchups.

San Diego State vs New Mexico

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Feb. 25, 10:00 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)

If San Diego State is to seal the deal and wrap up the Mountain West regular-season title, the Aztecs will certainly earn that crown with road games against New Mexico and Boise State.

San Diego State (22-5, 13-2 Mountain West) has won five games in a row and much of that can be attributed to the defense. The Aztecs are in the top 20 in adjusted defensive efficiency according to the database.

Three of San Diego State’s last five opponents failed to hit the 60-point mark.

New Mexico is just 1-5 in February to fall out of contention for the conference title. However, the Lobos did win the first matchup of the season against the Aztecs 76-67 as an eight-point underdog on the road behind 29 points from Jaelen House and 22 from Jamal Mashburn Jr.

San Diego State won five of the previous six matchups and covered in each of the victories before the Jan. 14 game, which happens to be San Diego State’s only home loss this season.

Providence vs Georgetown

  • Date, time (TV): Sunday, Feb. 26, 12:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

Providence looks to bounce back after fading in the second half in a loss to UConn. The Friars can move back to .500 on the road and remain in contention for second place in the BigEast and perhaps even the conference lead if Marquette stumbles.

Devin Carter has put up better scoring, assist, steals, and blocked shot numbers on the road than at home for the Friars (20-8, 12-5).

Each of Georgetown’s last three games were decided by single digits and that includes a win over Butler. Brandon Murray had 17 points in that game and followed that up with a 25-point effort in a loss to St. John’s.

Providence has won the last three games against Georgetown and five of the last six. Four of those wins were by double digits and that includes a 74-62 win at home on Feb. 8 as a 13-point favorite.

Five of the last seven games in the series finished under the total.


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