Is this finally Gonzaga’s year? Time will tell. The Zags got to the brink of their first-ever men’s basketball title last spring, only to fall in blowout fashion to Baylor in the National Championship Game. This year’s Gonzaga team didn’t enjoy quite as much regular-season success as last year’s squad, but the Bulldogs still entered the Big Dance as the No. 1 overall seed for the second straight year. It certainly wasn’t easy, but Mark Few’s squad was able to get past a plucky Georgia State side, 93-72, on Thursday afternoon.
As usual, oddsmakers like the Zags to take care of business in this one. The oddsmakers at BetOnline have the Bulldogs listed as 10.5-point favorites.
As was the case last year, Mark Few has a star-studded roster at his disposal. He replaced last year’s star freshman, Jalen Suggs, with another one in Chet Holmgren. While Suggs was an impressive all-around guard, Holmgren is one of the most dominant centers in America. Despite a wiry frame, the 7’1″ Holmgren looks like a good bet to be taken with the top overall pick in this year’s NBA draft.
While many NBA scouts believe Holmgren has star-level talent, he isn’t always tasked with playing a starring role for the Zags. The 19-year-old averaged 14.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and better than three blocked shots per game during the regular season. Those numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, but there aren’t many other players in the country capable of making the two-way impact Holmgren can on a nightly basis. All he did in his March Madness debut on Thursday was finish with 19 points, 16 rebounds, seven blocks, and five assists.
Of course, Holmgren isn’t alone. Gonzaga is also returning star junior Drew Timme, who burst onto the scene in last year’s run to the national title game. Timme, whose NBA future isn’t quite as clear as Holmgren’s, is arguably the most fundamentally-sound big man in the nation. The Texas native averaged 17.5 points and better than six rebounds per game this season for the Zags. He was arguably Gonzaga’s most important player a season ago, and he’ll play a similar role for Gonzaga this time around. Timme was utterly dominant on Thursday, finishing with a game-high 32 points on 13-for-21 shooting against the Panthers.
The Zags finished the regular season at 26-3 overall. While that was worse than last season’s showing, all three of those setbacks came at the expense of ranked foes. Gonzaga also avenged a recent loss to St. Mary’s with an 82-69 triumph over the Gaels in the West Coast Conference title game.
While their overall record is outstanding, Gonzaga hasn’t been nearly as reliable against the spread. The Bulldogs are just 15-12-2 against the spread so far this year. The Zags have been favored in every single game, as well.
Memphis is the No. 9 seed in the region, but the Tigers were able to scoot their way past No. 8 Boise State with a first-round win. The Tigers built a big first-half lead on Thursday afternoon. While the Broncos were able to narrow the margin after halftime, Memphis ultimately hung on for a 64-53 victory. Despite their lower seed, the Tigers were actually 3.5-point favorites in the first round.
Obviously, trying to slow down Gonzaga’s dynamic frontcourt will be a top priority for Hardaway’s crew in this one. Fortunately for Memphis, they have a future NBA lottery pick of their own in the frontcourt. Jalen Duren, who looks likely to become one of the first players taken in the draft this summer, will give the Zags some matchup problems, too.
Holmgren has a height advantage over the 6’11” Duren, but the Memphis center has about 55 pounds on Gonzaga’s star freshman. Duren’s offensive game isn’t quite as well-rounded as Holmgren’s, but don’t be surprised if the Tigers look to use Duren’s superior strength to their advantage in this one. Duren averaged 12.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and more than two blocked shots per game during the regular season. He posted a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double in Thursday’s victory over Boise State. Duren converted better than 62 percent of his attempts from the floor during the season, but that efficiency will be put to the test with Holmgren patrolling the paint for the Zags in this one.
Three Memphis starters finished Thursday’s game in double-figures scoring, led by 14 points from senior forward DeAndre Williams.
The Tigers finished the season 21-10 overall, but they struggled mightily against the spread. Memphis went just 11-14 ATS on the year. However, they have covered in five of their last seven games entering Saturday’s clash with the top-seeded Zags.
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Memphis Tigers March Madness Game Pick
The clash of big men should be fascinating. What Holmgren lacks in physical strength he more than makes up for in sheer length. Holmgren is a one-man wall in front of the Zags’ own basket, so points in the paint won’t be easy to come by for Memphis in this one.
If that version of Gonzaga shows up for a full game on Saturday, Memphis will be in serious trouble. Gonzaga failed to cover against Georgia State as 22.5-point favorites, but I expect a more focused effort over the course of the full 40-minute game on Saturday. Take Gonzaga to win and cover the more manageable 11.5-point spread this time around at the expense of the Tigers.
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Memphis Tigers Betting Recap
- Moneyline: Gonzaga -650, Memphis +500
- Point Spread: Gonzaga -10.5 (-110), Memphis +10.5 (-110)
- Over/Under: Over 155 points (-110), Under 155 points (-110)
- Pick: Gonzaga Bulldogs -10.5 (-110)