NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga/BYU Preview, Odds and Prediction - 03/09/2021

by Big Al Staff

The championship game in the West Coast Conference tournament features the number one team in the nation on ESPN at 9 PM ET.

Gonzaga reached the championship game with a 78-55 victory against Saint Mary’s as an 18.5-point favorite yesterday. Drew Timme paved the way with 18 points. The sophomore scores 18.9 points-per-game and averages 7.1 rebounds-per-game. Joey Ayayi added 16 points to improve his 11.5 points-per-game scoring average. 

The Bulldogs are the last remaining undefeated team in the nation with a 25-0 record to accompany their number one ranking. They have rattled off 29 straight victories going back to last season, and they have won 22 in a row by double-digits. Gonzaga played a rigorous non-conference schedule that included powerhouses in Kansas, West Virginia, Virginia, and Iowa. The Bulldogs have the country's top adjusted offensive efficiency number according to metrics at kenpom. They are third nationally, with an effective field goal percentage of 57.5%. The Zags are 45th nationally and tops in the West Coast Conference in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They limit their opponents to rebound 22.7% of their missed shots, 16th best in the nation. They also have the seventh-lowest opponent free throw rate nationally. If there is a crack in the armor, it might start with their half-court defense. Their opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 47.6%, which is only 108th nationally.

Mark Few returned three players from his seven-man rotation that finished 31-2 last season and looked poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament as a number one seed. Senior Corey Kispert leads the team this year with a 19.3 points-per-game after contributing 13.9 points-per-game last season. Kispert is also averaging 4.9 rebounds-per-game and 1.8 assists-per-game. Jalen Suggs is a five-star freshman who is averaging 14.0 points-per-game, 5.5 rebounds-per-game, and 4.5 assists-per-game. This group may be Few’s most talented roster in his 22 seasons as the Gonzaga head coach.

BYU joined the Zags in the championship game late last night with an 82-77 victory in overtime against Pepperdine as an 8-point favorite. Alex Barcello scored 23 points to lead his team to the win. The senior is scoring 15.7 points-per-game while adding 4.5 rebounds-per-game and 4.6 assists-per-game. Matt Harms contributed 18 points. The 7’3 transfer from Purdue is scoring 11.0 points-per-game. Senior Brandon Averette poured in 16 points to improve his 11.4 points-per-game scoring average.

Mark Pope lost five important pieces from the team that finished 24-8 in his first year with the program. He relied on the transfer market by bringing in six new players, including Haarms and Everette, who came over with him from Utah Valley, where he previously served as the head coach. Barcello and junior forward Kolby Lee were in the Cougars’ rotation last season.

BYU ranks 24th in the kenpom rankings with a 20-5 record. They have quality wins against San Diego State, Utah State, St. John’s, and Utah. Their five losses are against USC, Boise State, Pepperdine, and these Zags twice. They take a 10-3 conference record into this game.

The Cougars rank 30th in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They are an excellent shooting team with an effective field goal percentage of 55.0%, ranking 25th nationally. BYU makes 37.2% of their 3-pointers, 36th in the nation. They are 25th using the kenpom metrics in adjusted defensive efficiency. Their opponents make 45.2% of their shots inside the arc, 23rd nationally, and 31.7% of their 3-pointers, 67th nationally. Their opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 46.1% is 24th best. They also limit their opponents to rebounding 23.4% of their missed shots, ranking 24th nationally.

Gonzaga swept the two regular-season meetings. The Bulldogs won at home, 86-69, on January 7th before defeating the Cougars in Provo, 82-71. BookMaker lists BYU as a 14-point favorite with the total set at 155.5.

Computer prediction:  Gonzaga 87 BYU 71

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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