Can this be real? Could we be seeing a national championship team that goes undefeated, for the first time in 45 years?
It’s quite plausible, because the Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-0 SU, 17-12-2 ATS) are an entity that has been tested to a considerable degree. They are the only team in the history of college basketball, for instance, to beat four nationally-ranked teams in their first seven games of the season. And they have survived a nail-biter, as they beat UCLA 93-90 on Jalen Suggs’ last-second shot in overtime.
Now they can complete the story with a win over the Baylor Bears, who certainly pose the stiffest challenge they’ve encountered. But that’s the way it should be, isn’t it?
Game time is 9:20 PM ET at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. BetOnline customers get it all – lots of basic wagering options, hundreds of props, Odds Boosters for great parlay payouts, the Live Betting option for real-time wagering and every deposit method imaginable.
Here is their line on the game:
Gonzaga Bulldogs -4.5
Baylor Bears +4.5
Over 159.5 Points -110
Under 159.5 Points -110
So what would support the case for the ‘Zags?
Well, the strength of Gonzaga lies in their ability to move the ball around. They employ a lot of motion, which forces the defense to fight through screens. And everybody can handle the ball. There aren’t too many teams like them.
What’s important to understand is that this is not a team that is reliant upon shooting three-pointers. Their philosophy is that what they can do inside the three-point arc trumps what they can accomplish out of being three-point crazy. Such a thing could not be achieved without the terrific inside moves of Drew Timme, one of the most efficient offensive players in the country. He’s averaged 25 points a game over these last four tournament contests, shooting 67%. In case you’re interested, he is listed at #1 in KenPom.com’s Player of the Year rankings.
They also couldn’t do it without the ability of guard Jalen Suggs to penetrate the defense. Suggs is a classic “one-and-done” player; one of the top high school prospects last year, Gonzaga considers itself lucky to have him. And he can do a little of just about everything. He’s strong too; his choice was between a basketball scholarship with the ‘Zags and a free ride in football at Ohio State.
You can’t play an effective inside game without having some threats from the outside either. Corey Kispert joined Timme and Suggs as an All-American; he has shot 44.5% from three-point range and had been 50% in the NCAA Tournament until going two-for-nine against UCLA. Gonzaga hits 37% of its triples, which is more than adequate.
One cannot stress how well UCLA played on Saturday night. They were uncommonly good from three-point territory, shooting 47% (8-for-17). But you know, the ‘Zags were doing extremely well getting out to the deep perimeter against opponents in the Big Dance, allowing just 28% prior to that.
And what must be appreciated is how well the ‘Zags can finish up a defensive stop. Remember that if the opponent grabs a rebound after a miss, you may have wasted your time. But opponents have only been able to do that 23.1% of the time against them. That places them 18th-best in the nation, and presents a problem for a Baylor squad that thrives on being able to bang the glass for second chance opportunities.
We know that part of Gonzaga’s objective on offense is to avoid turning the ball over to an especially aggressive Baylor defense. But it is important that they create a transition game, which would come by way of defensive rebounds and turnovers. When you watch these guys run down the floor, they do so with the kind of efficiency that is very difficult to stop.
And that might be a real difference-maker here.
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