Gonzaga Bulldogs (-6) at Pepperdine Waves
For the first time in years, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (18-5, 10-2 WCC) are not head-and-shoulders above their WCC competition. This Sunday, they’ll face one of the conference’s upstarts, the Pepperdine Waves (14-9, 7-5 WCC), at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu (noon Eastern).
The Zags came into the year ranked in the top-ten, but have fallen drastically thanks to a handful of home losses. Gonzaga has dropped games to UCLA, Arizona, and BYU in Spokane. They also lost a neutral site game to Texas A&M early in the year and were downed by St. Mary’s in Moraga two weeks ago, ending an eight-game win streak over their arch-rival.
A big reason for the Zags’ dropoff is the loss of center Przemek Karnowski. The seven-foot, 287-pound Pole – who had no physical comparators in the conference – was lost for the season with a back injury. Since he’s gone down, sophomore Domantas Sabonis has had to shoulder an extremely heavy load up front. The Lithuanian has responded well, though, averaging over 17 points and nearly 12 rebounds per game.
He and senior Kyle Wiltjer have been able to keep the Bulldog offense respectable (80.1 PPG, 30th in the nation), and the Zags were able to drop 99 on the Waves when they came to Washington early in the season (99-73).
But the team is seriously lacking in secondary scoring. Point guard Josh Perkins and SG Silas Melson have struggled to adjust to the college game as they attempt to take the reigns from the outgoing backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr – who both graduated last year.
With the guard play down a notch, coach Mark Few has tried to turn his team into more of a defensive power, and he’s succeeded to some extent; Gonzaga is 38th in the country in points against (65.2).
Few will be hoping for another strong defensive when the Zags head to Malibu. The Waves have lost their last two, but they’ve scored 70 or more points in six straight games. Pepperdine has also been very solid at home this year, beating both St. Mary’s and BYU on their home court. They were actually undefeated at Firestone Fieldhouse until their last game, a surprising 73-70 setback to the bottom-feeding Portland Pilots.
Stacy Davis and Jett Raines both had huge nights, with 27 points apiece. But leading scorer Lamond Murray Jr. (15.7 PPG) had his worst game of the season, scoring just nine points on a woeful 3 of 17 from the floor. Only five Waves managed to hit the score sheet in the loss.
The Zags come in assix-point road favorites.
Neither team has been a particularly good bet this year. Gonzaga is just 2-4 ATS on the road this year while Pepperdine is 5-7 ATS at home. Gonzaga seems to be adjusting to life without Karnowski and has now won four straight. I’d lay as many as a touchdown on the Bulldogs, but wouldn’t go higher than that. With the line currently at six, roll with Few and the Zags.
Betting pick: Gonzaga (-6).
(Photo credit: SD Dirk (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)
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