The No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs continue their attempt to finish undefeated this season when they face the Saint Mary’s Gaels in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas on Monday night. Gonzaga has been idle since completing an unbeaten regular season with a Feb. 27 win over Loyola Marymount.
The Bulldogs have been the class of the country all season long, going 24-0 overall and 15-0 against West Coast Conference competition. Gonzaga has already beaten Saint Mary’s twice this season, by 14 and 22 points.
The Gaels have won three of four coming into this one, including a win over Loyola Marymount in the tournament quarterfinals on Saturday. Saint Mary’s (14-8) is the fourth seed in the tournament after going 4-6 in conference play this season.
These two teams are no strangers when it comes to WCC tournament play, having met in the championship game four times in the past five years. Gonzaga won three of those, but Saint Mary’s pulled a shocker in 2019, topping the No. 1 Bulldogs, who had won 18 in a row at the time.
If you’re going to be betting online on this game, Gonzaga is an 18½-point favorite, with the over/under being set at 141½.
Gonzaga: Continuing To Roll
While Gonzaga is considered the undisputed best team in the country, it won’t mean anything unless the Bulldogs put together six wins in NCAA March Madness. To get the top seed, they’ll need to win the West Coast Conference tournament, which means beating Saint Mary’s and then the winner of the BYU-Pepperdine semifinal contest.
Gonzaga has been nearly unstoppable offensively all season, averaging 92.9 points to rank first in the country by more than seven points per game. The Bulldogs have also been very good defensively, holding opponents to 69.3 points per contest.
Senior forward Corey Kispert leads the offensive charge with 19.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, hitting 46.3% of his 3-point attempts. He’s joined by sophomore forward Drew Timme, who is putting up 18.9 points on 65.1% shooting while grabbing 7.1 rebounds per game.
Freshman guard Jalen Suggs has lived up to his advance billing, averaging 13.9 points, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He’ll need to conduct the Gonzaga offense against a stifling Saint Mary’s defense.
Saint Mary’s: Doing It With Defense
Saint Mary’s isn’t a very good shooting team this season, hitting just 42.4% of its shots on the season. That means coach Randy Bennett’s squad has had to rely on tough defense, as it holds opponents to a WCC-best 62.3 points per game. That defense will be tested in this one by the Bulldogs, who averaged 80.0 points in their two wins over Saint Mary’s this season.
Offensively, Logan Johnson has been the main weapon for the Gaels, averaging 13.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Johnson scored 25 of the 52 Saint Mary’s points in the quarterfinal win over Loyola Marymount. The junior guard averaged 12.5 points in the two losses to Gonzaga.
Tommy Kuhse is averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 assists per game, the latter of which ranks second in the West Coast Conference. Kuhse is also averaging 1.52 steals, which ranks him fourth in the WCC.
If Saint Mary’s is going to make major college basketball news, it must be able to take care of the ball on offense and not allow Gonzaga to turn turnovers into easy baskets. The Gaels will want to slow the game down to allow their defense to be set against the powerful Gonzaga offense.
Gonzaga is looking like an unstoppable machine right now, though Saint Mary’s has pulled the upset over the Bulldogs in the past. Unfortunately for the Gaels, they’re 0-5 against Gonzaga since that 2019 championship game win.
Coach Mark Few isn’t going to let his team forget that upset loss before this one either, making sure his players don’t overlook anyone on their way to a tournament title. Look for the Bulldogs to be well-rested and ready to go for this one.
When making your college basketball picks, give the 18½ points and have confidence that No. 1 Gonzaga will roll to an easy win again.