NO. 23 GONZAGA (13-2, 3-0 WCC) AT SAINT MARY’S (15-2, 4-0 WCC)
Time/TV: 11 p.m./ESPN2
Location: McKeon Arena
RPI Ratings: Gonzaga 8 (No. 1 WCC); Saint Mary’s 30 (No. 2 WCC).
Line: Saint Mary’s -3
Gonzaga Players to Watch: C Robert Sacre, 7-0 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 48.5% FG); PF Elias Harris, 6-7 Jr. (12.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 48.5% 3s); SG Gary Bell Jr., 6-1 Fr. (9.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 40.7% 3s). Although Kevin Pangos is getting the most attention among Bulldog freshmen, Bell is having a standout initial campaign, as well. He scored 15 points in each of his last two games, victories over Pepperdine and Santa Clara.
Saint Mary’s Players to Watch: PG Matthew Dellavedova, 6-4 Jr. (15.2 ppg, 6.5 apg, 3.2 rpg); PF Rob Jones, 6-6 Sr. (15.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 47.8% FG); SG Stephen Holt, 6-4 So. (9.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 apg). Holt nearly had a triple-double with 11 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in the Gaels’ 87-72 win over San Francisco on Monday.
Storylines: As has been the case the past half-decade, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are on top of the West Coast Conference standings. It’s likely the league title will come down to their head-to-head matchups.
Keys to Victory: Jones will have his hands full against the bigger, stronger Bulldog front line, but he’s capable of holding his own. The backcourt matchup should be interesting. The Bulldogs and Gaels feature the most talented and deepest guards in the WCC, but Saint Mary’s has a significant experience advantage. The game could be won at the 3-point line. Saint Mary’s shoots effectively behind the 3-point line (36.8 percent) and Gonzaga defends the perimeter well, holding opponents to 32 percent behind the arc. On the other side, the Bulldogs shoot 39.1 percent from deep and Saint Mary’s has allowed 86 3s this year.
The Bottom Line: Gonzaga is probably the bigger, stronger, better team, but the Gaels rarely lose at McKeon Arena, where they’re 11-0 this year. That advantage will be the difference.
The Pick: Saint Mary’s 79, Gonzaga 74.