BYU vs. Gonzaga Betting Odds
The West Coast Conference is back in full swing. While Gonzaga still reigns supreme, there are more than a few worthy challengers in this year’s conference picture.
The top challenger is Mark Pope’s Cougars, who are a resounding 14-3 with victories over San Diego State, Oregon, and St. Mary’s.
But while BYU has been superb this season, especially on the defensive end, the conference still runs through the 12-2 Bulldogs. Gonzaga is primed to take over the top spot in the AP Poll following Baylor’s first loss, but it’ll have to beat BYU and Santa Clara first.
So, will Gonzaga continue to blow through its inferior conference opponents? Or will BYU put up a fight on Thursday?
BYU Cougars Odds
For BYU, it all starts on the defensive end.
The Cougars are currently 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency and ninth in defensive effective field goal percentage. And despite being undersized on the interior, the team is top-notch in block rate and rebounding rate.
But there’s regression coming for BYU in the future. Opponents are currently shooting just 26.4% from 3 against the Cougars, good for fifth lowest nationally. But ShotQuality’s metrics rank BYU just 85th in adjusted defensive shot quality and make its record only 11-6.
That sub-27% mark is unsustainable for the Cougars, and Gonzaga could be the first stop for BYU’s regression train.
Offensively, it’s a mixed bag for BYU. Floor general Alex Barcello is competent running the pick-and-roll and likely the best shooter in college hoops (career 45% from 3), but he often must carry the offense.
Alex Barcello is BYU's career 3FPG% leader, and the gap between AB and 2nd place is greater than the gap between 2nd and 6th place.
Consistency is his calling card:
BYU career: 48.3% pic.twitter.com/boQTWFBgLw
— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) January 5, 2022
Mostly because there’s no interior weapon. As mentioned, the frontcourt is undersized, and while they’re solid rebounders, they are not efficient scorers. BYU ranks 335th in spot-up points per possession this season.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Odds
The ‘Zags may have dropped some games this season, which seems bad considering Mark Few and Co. won 31 straight last year. But this team is still as dangerous as ever.
Gonzaga is doing all the same things it did last season. The Bulldogs run at a super-fast pace (11th in tempo) while scoring with insane efficiency (second in offensive efficiency) and lighting it up on the interior (first in 2-point shooting, 62.5%).
Andrew Nembhard and Drew Timme run the show still, combining for over 25 points per game and often running the pick-and-roll. However, the new basketball darling in Spokane is Chet Holmgren.
Holmgren is averaging 13.4 points 8.4 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per game, but the advanced metrics show him in a brighter light.
Among all Division-I college basketball players, Holmgren is top-20 in both effective field goal and true shooting percentage, top-five in 2-point percentage, top-70 in defensive rebounding rate, and top-15 in block rate.
He’s top-10 in KenPom’s Player of the Year, and it’s well deserved.
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) December 28, 2021
BYU vs. Gonzaga Prediction and Pick
My pick: BYU +13.5 (-110 at DraftKings)
This is too many points. KenPom has this spread at Gonzaga -11.
BYU has a legit defense. It may be due for regression, but the Cougars have been particularly impactful on the interior, where they’re 35th in 2-point defense. The team is also top-30 in the percentage of shots allowed at the rim (43.3%), which means the front line should avoid death by Timme/Holmgren.
The backcourt is very concerning, as I believe Gonzaga has a big advantage in that area. But hopefully, Barcello will go thermonuclear on offense and carry that unit on defense.
BYU has always played Gonzaga tough. The Cougars have kept it within this number in three of the last four meetings with the ‘Zags, winning one of them.
With some sharp money already having hit the Cougars, I’ll snatch up this line early and bet it down to +12.