San Francisco looks to continue its WCC Tournament run by shocking Gonzaga. Can the Dons at least cover the spread?
Tonight’s WCC Semifinal will be San Francisco’s second game of this conference tournament. On Saturday, the Dons beat BYU by 12. Meanwhile, Gonzaga will be playing its first game since losing to Saint Mary’s in the regular-season finale.
The top sportsbooks have released their college basketball odds for tonight’s game between San Francisco and Gonzaga. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.
San Francisco Dons vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Monday, March 7, 2022 – 9:00 PM EST at Orleans Arena
One might think that Gonzaga could be rusty for tonight’s game because it hasn’t played since February 26. Conversely, San Francisco just played on Saturday. However, we have seen several instances where the Zags have had to play after taking a relatively long period of time off.
For example, on December 18, after not playing a game in over a week, Gonzaga beat Texas Tech by 14. Moreover, after taking even more days off, the Zags beat Pepperdine 117-83. They also beat Loyola Marymount by 34 points after having last played a week before.
Their three-point shooting efficiency and general superiority in these games — just like in other games this season which they played after taking a lot of time off — indicates that they will not be rusty tonight.
As I will argue, there is no match-up advantage for San Francisco. Because I don’t see a situational angle in the Dons’ favor, I like Gonzaga to cover the spread posted at the online sports betting sites.
Gonzaga’s Perimeter Defense
As video footage shows, the Zags like to employ traps and double-teams behind the perimeter in order to force the opposing ball-handler to give up the ball. They pursued these tactics several times during their two 16-point regular-season victories over the Dons.
These tactics are smart because San Francisco wants to rely primarily on its guards. San Francisco has a guard-centered offense, led by seniors Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz. This team is in trouble when its guards have to give the ball up. Plus, San Francisco prefers to shoot threes. The Dons attempt threes at a higher rate than any other team in the WCC.
By so disturbing opposing ball-handlers behind the arc, however, Zag defenders compel them to pass the ball inside. Working inside, though, is not what the Dons prefer to do.
They do not have the players to test Gonzaga’s superior rim-protecting personnel even when their guards are keeping the basketball. Hence, in two games against San Francisco, Bulldog center Chet Holmgren accumulated a total of 10 blocks. This block total reflects his season-long supremacy as a defender. He ranks 14th nationally in block rate.
The presence of this superior shot-blocker sent fear into the minds of San Francisco ball-handlers. I am not exaggerating: you can see during the gameshow often Don ball-handlers would try to drive inside only to see Holmgren and bring the ball back out.
They settled for two-point jumpers, although, statistically, they are an average team in terms of the efficiency with which they convert mid-range shot attempts. I don’t like the San Francisco offense because I don’t see it being comfortable offensively behind the arc, from the mid-range, or close to the basket.
Gonzaga Offense vs. San Francisco Defense
The reason why traps and double-teams behind the perimeter wouldn’t work against Gonzaga is the ISO skills of their bigs.
When Bulldog ball-handlers give the ball up inside, Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren are massively more comfortable with the ball than their San Francisco counterparts. Timme and Holmgren are easily two of the more efficient two-point scorers in the nation — the latter also ranks 49th nationally in three-point efficiency. Timme flashes his intelligent off-ball movement and his range of moves with the ball in his hands while Holmgren showcases a ridiculous combination of height, length, flexibility, and agility.
Not only do Don defenders not want to see either one in isolation, but they will often need to have multiple players converge on either one. Both players achieved superbly efficient outputs inside the arc in both regular-season games against San Francisco despite their opponent’s extra efforts.
The excessive attention that Don defenders must pay to Zag inside scorers frees up space for Bulldog shooters behind the arc where Gonzaga, as a team, is lethal. Gonzaga converted 41 percent of its three-pointers in WCC play.
In both regular-season games, the Zags dominated inside on both halves of the court. The skillset and athletic abilities of their playmakers inside are evidently too much for San Francisco, and this disparity helps Gonzaga take advantage of its already extant three-point shooting advantage.
For the above reasons, I recommend investing in Gonzaga with your best bets.
NCAAB Pick: Bulldogs -14 (-110) with FanDuel