When you play in the West Coast Conference, it is impossible not to be overshadowed by national championship contender Gonzaga. However, both Saint Mary’s and San Francisco have proven that they can play basketball as well.
The teams are a combined 22-1 at home this season and with this game being at San Francisco, it could be the perfect time to snap a four-game losing streak to St. Mary’s.
There’s plenty of basketball yet to be played but it is never too early to look ahead. There might not be a men’s Division I conference where there is more of a reward for finishing third rather than fourth in the conference standings since the No. 4 seed would be staring at a conference semifinal matchup with mighty Gonzaga. The team that finishes second or third would likely face BYU in the semifinals.
These teams are pretty evenly matched so this could be a fun one.
- Game: Saint Mary’s (15-4) at San Francisco (16-4)
- Location: War Memorial at the Sobrato Center
- Day/Time: Thursday, January 27, 10 p.m. ET
Saint Mary’s Gaels at San Francisco Dons
Saint Mary’s Spreading the Wealth
When Saint Mary’s extended its winning streak to three games with a victory over Loyola Marymount, the Gaels assisted on 21 of the 32 made baskets in the 83-51 victory. Six players had at least two assists led by Logan Johnson’s five. It was the third time in the last six games that Johnson had five assists. More impressively, he committed only two turnovers in those three contests.
The starting five had 13 assists and six turnovers and other than a possible matchup with No. 2 Gonzaga, it is hard to beat the Gaels when they put up those kinds of numbers.
Tommy Kuhse is the team leader with 3.2 assists per game while Johnson (2.6), Augustas Marciulionis (2.5) and Matthias Tass (2.2) also average more than two assists per game.
Junior forward Alex Ducas is the beneficiary of many of those assists. He has scored in double figures in five straight games and has at least two 3-pointers in nine of the Gaels’ last 10 games. Ducas matched his season-high with 22 points against Loyola Marymount.
The Gaels are 4-1-1 against the college basketball spread in their last six games.
San Francisco Not Afraid To Dial Long Distance
When writing the defensive game plan on the chalkboard heading into a game against San Francisco, limiting the open perimeter looks would seem likely to be right near the top.
The Dons had a game earlier this season with 20 3-pointers in four of its last nine contests. After being limited to nine 3-pointers in back-to-back losses to WCC juggernauts Brigham Young and Gonzaga, the Dons connected on 10 treys in the bounce-back win at Pepperdine.
Jamaree Bouyea leads the way with 47 3-pointers on 40.5% shooting. Khalil Shabazz (37 3-pointers), Julian Rishwain (36 made 3-pointers in a reserve role) and Gabe Stefanini (26 3-pointers) give San Francisco multiple threats from the perimeter at all times.
USF averages 10.8 3-pointers on 38% 3-point shooting in the 16 wins. Those numbers drop to 4.5 3-pointers on 21% shooting in the four defeats.
It doesn’t hurt that their best shooters also happen to be the top passers as well. Bouyea leads the team with 73 assists while Stefanini and Shabazz had 46 and 43 assists respectively.
San Francisco is 5-10 against the Las Vegas odds in its last 15 games.
The rematch will be played on February 17.
We got Gaels and Dons tonight at 7 pm, AND Gaels vs. Dons in Moraga on February 17! #GaelsRise
— Saint Mary’s Hoops (@saintmaryshoops) January 27, 2022
Low-Scoring Affair Between SMC and USF
San Franciso’s Khalil Shabazz and Logan Johnson of St. Mary’s rank first and second in the WCC in steals per game.
Something to consider for those who bet online, the total has gone under in six of San Francisco’s last nine games as well as in six of the last nine matchups with Saint Mary’s. The total has also gone under in four of Saint Mary’s last six road games so it won’t be surprising to see this game head that way even with a low number of 129½.
It is hard to pick against Saint Mary’s as a result of the Gaels’ recent success against San Francisco.
Pick: Saint Mary’s Gaels +120
Pick: Saint Mary’s Gaels +2½ (-110)