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#11 seed GONZAGA BULLDOGS (19-14) vs. #6 seed ST. JOHN’S RED STORM (21-11)
NCAA Tournament – Second Round
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:45 p.m. ET – Denver, CO
Line: St. John’s -1, Total: 135
Gonzaga versus St. John’s is a matchup of teams with two distinctly different NCAA histories, recently speaking.
The Bulldogs have been to each and every NCAA party since 1999, dancing its way from tournament Cinderella in the late 90’s to perennial attendees today. If the ’Zags have been the annual party people, St. John’s on the other hand has been a tournament home body. The Johnnies, longtime strangers to all this madness nonsense, will be making their first tournament appearance on Thursday night since 2002, when they lost in the first round to Wisconsin.
The closest thing that these two teams may have in common is a little bit of history. In 2000 Gonzaga and St. John’s met in the second round of the West Regional. Gonzaga (#10 seed) defeated the Big East champion Red Storm (#2 seed) that year, 82-76. 2000 was also the last year that the Red Storm won a tournament game. Now Steve Lavin has the program back to respectability, and will be trying to add onto an already impressive ‘10-11 resume that saw the school go from 17 wins to 21 (and counting?) and from 6-12 in league play last season, to 12-6 this year.
You don’t make the tournament 13 straight times without getting hot at the right time of year, so it shouldn’t’ be surprising to see Gonzaga entering the tournament winners of nine straight and 11 of its last 12. Those numbers become even more impressive when you consider where Gonzaga was on December 11, when the ‘Zags were sitting at 4-5 following an 83-79 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend.
Shortly thereafter, quality out-of-conference wins over Baylor, Xavier and Oklahoma State got things back on track for Mark Few’s team, and from there it was a race to wrest control of the West Coast Conference back away from last year’s champ, Saint Mary’s. That battle was waged throughout the season, with the two teams splitting games, winning on each other’s home court. It came down to the conference title game, and the ‘Zags were up to the task, defeating the Gaels 75-63. Gonzaga is led by big 6-foot-5 senior guard Steven Gray (13.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.7 SPG), who leads the team in scoring, assists, steals, collisions and floor burns.
Gray gets a big assist from 7-footer junior Robert Sacre (12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG) the team’s leading rebounder, and shot blocker. Sacre (pronounced Sock-cray) could pose a particular headache on the interior for the Red Storm’s big men, whose tallest players seeing regular playing time are only 6-foot-8. Sophomore Elias Harris (12.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is the third player scoring in double figures for the Bulldogs. Gonzaga’s guard play down the stretch was also impressive. Marquise Carter (5.9 PPG) averaged 14.5 PPG, made 13-of-15 FT, and committed just three total turnovers in the semifinal and championship games of the conference tournament. David Stockton provided key minutes off the bench subbing for Carter and Gray.
The Red Storm were sitting at 13-9, and 5-5 in conference play following a seven-point February 5 loss in Los Angeles to UCLA. They closed the regular season with a flurry, winning seven of their final eight games, including home victories over ranked teams Connecticut and Pittsburgh, and a road win over ranked Villanova. The Johnnies defeated five ranked teams in Madison Square Garden during the regular season, with the big head-turner being their 93-78 blowout of Duke on Jan. 30.
First team All-Big East player Dwight Hardy (18.0 PPG) led the team in scoring, seemingly saving his best for the biggest games. He scored 34 against ‘Nova, 33 versus UConn and 26 against Duke. Fellow senior Justin Brownlee (12.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is second on the team in scoring and rebounding. The concern for St. John’s entering this game isn’t who will take the court, but who will not.
Leading rebounder, and number two assist man, senior D.J. Kennedy (10.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.0 APG), tore his right ACL in the Big East Tournament loss last Thursday to Syracuse, ending his season and career at the school in heartbreaking fashion. Kennedy also led the team in steals with 56. Kennedy’s versatility as a passer, scorer, and defender will be sorely missed, especially on the interior, as Lavin’s crew will have to contain an energetic 7-footer without its top player on the glass. With Gonzaga averaging 37.4 rebounds per game to the Red Storm’s 32.8, the Johnnies have no choice but to outwork the ‘Zags in the paint. If they can’t, the Bulldogs could bulldoze the Red Storm en route to the second round.
Gonzaga is 12-8 ATS after an SU win, while St. John’s is 4-6 ATS after an SU loss. The Red Storm are also 6-10 ATS in non-home games, while Gonzaga is 8-6 ATS outside of their home gym.
GONZAGA is 11-3 ATS (78.6%, +7.7 Units) when playing against a good team (Win Pct. 60% to 80%) over the last 2 seasons. The average score was GONZAGA 73.3, OPPONENT 66.1 - (Rating = 1*).
GONZAGA is 17-6 ATS (73.9%, +10.4 Units) in road games after 2 straight games making 78% of their free throws or better since 1997. The average score was GONZAGA 80.6, OPPONENT 74.1 - (Rating = 1*).
This four-star trend advises a play on the Under.
GONZAGA is 11-1 UNDER (91.7%, +9.9 Units) versus good shooting teams - making >=45% of their shots this season. The average score was GONZAGA 69.5, OPPONENT 67.0 - (Rating = 4*).
UCLA BRUINS (3-2, 3-1 ATS) at KANSAS JAYHAWKS (6-0, 3-1 ATS) Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series
Sportsbook.com using Kansas -16.5
Two legendary programs, one dynamic college basketball setting, history, tradition. That is about all that undefeated Kansas (6-0) and UCLA (3-2) will have in common when they take the court Thursday night in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks bring a nation-best, 64-game home winning streak into play, and the Bruins will be about as welcome in Lawrence as LeBron James will be welcome Thursday night in Cleveland.
Kansas has been clicking on all cylinders, and they have yet to add top recruit Josh Selby to the rotation. The NCAA ruled recently that Selby can play beginning on December 18. So far without Selby, Kansas is shooting a Division I best 57.8% from the field. Their average margin of victory (35.3 PPG) is also tops in the nation. As a team, they are averaging 22 assists per game. The Morris brothers have been outstanding so far. Marcus Morris leads the team in scoring at 19 PPG, while brother Markieff is averaging 12.3 PPG and a team-high 9.5 RPG. Tyshawn Taylor has been stellar so far at the point, averaging a team high 7.2 APG to complement his 9.2 PPG.
After a 3-0 start, Ben Howland’s Bruins lost in the semifinals and then the consolation game of the Preseason NIT Championship in Madison Square Garden. Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson leads the Bruins in points and rebounds (17.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG), and totaled 30 points and 23 rebounds in the two losses in New York City. Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt (14.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG) are both sophomores, and headline a young Bruins club that does not have a single senior on the team. The poise and discipline of this UCLA team will be sorely tested on Kansas’ home floor. The Bruins have totaled 84 assists and 81 turnovers this season. The combination of a young team that doesn’t protect the basketball, playing in a hostile road environment against an experienced team that has won 64 straight on its home floor and loves to pressure the ball looks like a bad combination for the baby bears. Normally when Kansas and UCLA play, that smell in the air is tradition. Thursday night in Lawrence, that won’t be tradition you’re whiffing, but more like the smell of a young team getting smoked.
69% of action at Sportsbook.com is betting that the Jayhawks will cover the big spread against the Bruins.
KANSAS is 20-5 ATS (+14.5 Units) when playing against a good team (Win Pct. 60% to 80%) over the last 3 seasons. The average score was KANSAS 80.3, OPPONENT 63.6 - (Rating = 3*).
In the years to come we will all look back on this era as a time of change. A time when we inaugurated our first black president, a period that saw our economy turn upside down, and an entire nation affected…even the NCAA, and NCAA betting
The media has been in a frenzy over the expansion of the Pac-10 conference and the possibility of a completely dismantled Big 12. On Thursday, Commissioner Larry Scott announced the dawning of a new day for the Pac-10, as Colorado’s president graciously accepted the invitation to join the ten other West Coast schools. This news may come as a shock from a geographical standpoint. But UCLA head football coach Rick Neuheisel thinks that Colorado will be a perfect fit, “From a proximity standpoint, its closer to Los Angeles than Seattle is,” he said, NCAA betting is not so sure.
Nice one Rick, but the difference is not that great, only about 100 miles, especially considering that the distance from LA to Seattle is over a 900 mile long journey. Make no mistake that Larry Scott is getting his kicks in Denver dollar signs. Why else would anyone want to alter a conference that has been at the pinnacle of college athletic success for the past 30 years? The addition of Colorado is the first to take place since the addition of the two Arizona schools in 1978.
Mama always said, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. As if the expansion of the NCAA tournament wasn’t bad enough? No, yet again college sports fans everywhere will fall victim to the power of the almighty dollar, their opinions ignored and their input invalid.
Is their no sense of tradition, no sense of pride? I for one, admire Texas’ determination to preserve what is left of the Big-12, as they denied their invitation into the Pac-10 late Wednesday. The Big 12 is back, and the Texas rivalries intact, for now. But the additional departure of Nebraska to the Big 10 leaves the conference with ten teams, which would make playing a conference championship game impossible due to NCAA regulations that require a minimum of twelve teams to be present. This will only add to the mess and controversy that surrounds the BCS each year.
To me it seems like a lot of nonsense for nothing. The Pac-10 and Big 12 have acquired two middle of the road teams at best. Colorado adds no competitive value to either football or basketball, and both of those teams will face a challenge as mountainous as the Flat Irons in the near future, as they face a Pac-10 that will be revamped with even more talent for the upcoming 2011 and 2012 seasons. Perhaps now is the time to take advantage of the proximity to LA, and start recruiting some transfers from USC.
As for the Big 10, Nebraska has been a bottom tier team in the Big 12 in recent years, and that will not change. Their addition will hardly be noticeable. As a matter of fact, I thought Nebraska was already in the Big 10.
In all seriousness, this has been much ado over nothing; except for the Denver TV market that Larry Scott finally got his hands on. When it’s all said and done, when you are dealing with cash, you usually get change. Where do you do your NCAA betting? Head over to www.sportsbook.com where everybody bets.