There is something special about winning your first bet of the college basketball season. We are going to win a lot of bets this year, but you always seem to remember your first. Yesterday we backed the nation’s top team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, in a marquee matchup with the 6th ranked Kansas Jayhawks. The Zags opened up as small -1.5-point favorites, but by tipoff, the number had moved all the way to Gonzaga -4, as the sharps were hammering the Zags.
I felt that while the Jayhawks have always been a strong defensive team under head coach Bill Self, that they just wouldn’t be able to guard all of the Zags elite scorers. So, I laid -3 points on the Bulldogs, and expected at least one of their efficient scorers to have a big game, and saw the Zags coasting to the win and the cover.
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) November 26, 2020
It turns out I got this one a little bit wrong, as it wasn’t just one of the Zags that went off, they all went off! Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs each went for more than 20-points, and the Zags dominated the Jayhawks. Mark Few’s squad lived up to their top billing and quickly jumped out to a 14-point first-half lead. Kansas made a game out of it early in the second half, eventually tying the game up, but the Zags balanced attack was just too much, as they again pulled away.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 19-points in the second half, and as expected, coasted to the easy win and cover, winning the game 102-90. It was a very impressive performance for Gonzaga, and this looks like the best team that they have ever had in Spokane. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will head out to sunny San Diego, where the UCLA Bruins play the Waves of Pepperdine.
- Pepperdine Waves (1-0) at UCLA Bruins (0-1)
- Viejas Arena, San Diego
- 12:00 PM PST
- TV: PACN
The UCLA Bruins will look to rebound after getting beaten up in their opening game of the season as they play neutral floor hosts to the Waves of Pepperdine today in a non-conference contest. The Bruins came into the season as one of the favorites to win the PAC-12 this season but struggled against the San Diego State Aztecs on Wednesday night, losing 73-58.
It's GAMEDAY! UCLA faces Pepperdine at San Diego State's Viejas Arena this afternoon. Game time is 12 pm (PT).
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) November 27, 2020
For Pepperdine, they are hoping to stay undefeated on the year as they defeated the Anteaters of UC Irvine in their first game of the year, winning by a final score of 86-72. The Bulldogs of Gonzaga are going to win the WCC this year, but there is a big drop off in talent after the Zags in the WCC, and second place in the league is up for grabs with several teams competing for the title of second-best out west. The Waves are hoping they can continue their progression under Romar as their kenpom rating has gone up in each of the last three seasons under the former UW head coach.
UCLA Bruins (0-1)
Mick Cronin’s first year in Westwood was a tale of two seasons. In the first half of the year, the Bruins struggled to adjust from former head coach Steve Alford’s style of run and gun to Cronin’s trademark defensive-minded approach. The Bruins started the season by losing 9 out of their first 17 games, including bad losses to the likes of Hofstra, Washington State, and Cal State Fullerton.
But then things started to click for UCLA, and they finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the PAC-12, winning 11 out of their last 14 games of the season, and nearly took home the regular-season league title. This year, they bring back their top-6 players from that team that finished red-hot, and the hype on UCLA was heavy, as many expected that momentum to continued into this year.
But that hype train was derailed in their first game of the season, as they were humbled by the San Diego State Aztecs. Most expect that the Aztecs will rebuild this year after having one of the best regular seasons in program history last year when they went 28-1. Only time will tell how good the Aztecs will be this year, but something tells me that the Bruins are still a quality team and that the loss said more about San Diego State than it did about UCLA.
Pepperdine Waves (1-0)
Lorenzo Romar started his career as the head coach of the Pepperdine Waves way back in 1997. Romar would leave Malibu and go on to take the Billikens of Saint Louis to the NCAA tournament before heading to the University of Washington, where he coached the Huskies to six tournament appearances in his 15 years in Seattle. His career has now come full circle, as he is back coaching the Waves, and in year three of his second stint in Malibu, he is hoping that he can finally get this team into the top-3 of the WCC.
Romar has one of the best players in the league in Colbey Ross, and with Ross returning for his senior year this season, this is Pepperdine’s best shot at catching up with the likes of St. Mary’s, BYU, and San Francisco in the WCC. Ross was good for 20 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 1 steal a game last year and anchors an experienced starting five, as all five guys are upperclassmen. If Romar is ever going to make any Waves with the Waves, this is going to be the year, as they hit the reset button next year with three of their best players all graduating.
Who Do I Like?
I am going to essentially ignore the Bruins ugly performance Wednesday night. Winning at San Diego State is never easy, and as I mentioned above, I think the Aztecs are going to be much better this season than people are giving them credit for. This Bruins team has an efficient offense, and they play some aggressive defense. We didn’t see much of that opening night, but I think the Bruins will take advantage of this soft matchup today and hammer Pepperdine.
Lorenzo Romar is an elite recruiter, but he is a bad in-game coach. Mick Cronin is an elite in-game coach, and this is a coaching mismatch. The Bruins will impose their slow pace on Pepperdine and grind them down possession by possession. This game is probably going to be fairly ugly, with neither team being that great at shooting the rock, and with the Bruins pushing that slow pace, there won’t be many points going up on the scoreboard.
I am always a bit leery of laying significant points in a game that I expect to be lower scoring. Put simply, it is easier to cover a number when teams combine for 200 points than when they combine for 140. But I see this game as a fairly major mismatch, both on the floor and on the sidelines. I expect UCLA to play Cronin’s signature pressure defense, and outside of Colbey Ross, the Waves just don’t have guys that are going to be able to shoot the ball well enough to hang with UCLA.
The first team to score 70 points in this one wins, and I think the Bruins will coast to an easy win and cover today. Pepperdine will do their best to push the tempo, but at the end of the day, I don’t see them getting to 60 points as the Bruins pressure will be too much. Give me the UCLA Bruins today, laying -7-points against an overmatched Pepperdine team. I’ll call it a 74-59 final score!