The No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs try to wrap up another perfect season in West Coast Conference play when they host the Loyola Marymount Lions on Saturday night. Gonzaga has won 23 straight against the Lions and 27 of the last 28 meetings.
The Bulldogs (23-0) are also looking for their 51st straight home victory, which would set a new program record. Gonzaga is 14-0 and has already clinched the West Coast Conference regular-season title and the top seed in the conference tournament.
Loyola Marymount (12-7) will finish third in the West Coast Conference standings, as it is 7-4 in conference play and 1 1/2 games behind second-place BYU and 1 1/2 ahead of Pepperdine. The Lions have won five of their last six, including a victory over the Waves on Thursday night.
If you’re looking to bet online on this contest, the Bulldogs are 25-point favorites at home, with the over/under set at 152½.
Not Too Shabby
In any other season, the Lions may be contending for college basketball news headlines with their recent play. But, between four postponements since Jan. 30 and the overwhelming spotlight on their No. 1-ranked conference rivals, the Lions are just another team.
Stan Johnson’s first team has some fight to it and won’t go quietly. Senior swingman Eli Scott leads the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists with 17.5 points, 7.7 boards, and 3.7 assists per game. He’ll be the focus of a Gonzaga defense that can be hard to penetrate.
Mattias Markusson, a 7-3 senior center, will need to play big in the paint against the Bulldogs. He averages 8.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in just 19.9 minutes of playing time.
The Lions’ strength is their defense, which ranks second in the West Coast Conference, allowing just 68.0 points per game. They are also relentless on the offensive glass, topping the league with 10.3 offensive rebounds per game.
The Bulldogs have some work to do, but it’s hard to picture them not being there at the end of NCAA March Madness this year. In fact, it would take a monumental upset for it not to happen.
Coach Mark Few has probably his best team, and that’s saying something with the Bulldogs’ recent history of title contenders. Still, an offense that averages 93.2 points and shooting 55.2% from the floor is outstanding, especially when you factor in this isn’t a gimmick team just trying to score points in bunches and forget about the defensive end of the floor.
Senior forward Corey Kispert leads the Gonzaga attack with 19.3 points per game, connecting on 55.8% of his field-goal attempts, including 45.3% from 3-point range. Sophomore forward Drew Timme is right up there with Kispert, though, averaging 19.0 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 65.4% from the floor.
Freshman guard Jalen Suggs has fit in nicely, averaging 14.0 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.0 steals while connecting on 34.3% of his 3-point attempts. The Bulldogs can come at you in waves as well, with 10 players averaging at least seven minutes of playing time per game.
Impossible To Bet Against?
Gonzaga is almost making a mockery of sports betting, with regular 25-point spreads. Want to bet that the Bulldogs won’t cover? They haven’t in a few games lately, but it’s certainly not easy to assume they’ll do it again in this one.
The Lions are coming in playing well, but they’re going to be in a near-impossible situation, as the Bulldogs will be saying goodbye to some seniors, including Kispert, and gunning for a perfect regular-season mark.
You might want to take your chances with the Lions keeping it close, but when I’m making my college basketball picks, I’m taking Gonzaga to win and cover the 25-point spread at home.