No. 18 St. Mary’s Gaels vs. No. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs – Open: -6; Move: -5.5
Gonzaga is pushing toward a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and a win in tonight’s West Coast Conference final would go a long way toward securing that spot. The Bulldogs nearly ran the regular-season table before stubbing their collective toe in the final game, a 79-71 home loss to Brigham Young as a massive 21-point favorite. Still, they finished 29-1 SU and were among the nation’s best with a superb 20-6-1 ATS mark.
In the WCC quarterfinals Saturday, the top-seeded Zags blew out Pacific 82-50 as a monster 27.5-point chalk. In Monday’s semifinals, Gonzaga held off Santa Clara 77-68 while falling well short as a 23-point chalk.
No. 2 seed St. Mary’s has two blowout victories in the WCC tourney. On Saturday night, the Gaels (28-3 SU, 16-10-2 ATS) blasted Portland 81-58 to narrowly cash as a 22.5-point fave. In Monday’s semifinals, St. Mary’s boatraced BYU 81-50 as an 8-point fave.
“We opened Gonzaga -6 just a bit ago,” Cooley said this morning of betting on this 9 p.m. Eastern tilt. “The public has been pounding the Zags throughout the past month, and we should see the same here in what they’ll view as a very low number for this squad.”
That said, Cooley noted that early smart money on the Gaels led Bookmaker.eu to drop the line to 5.5.
The Gaels have won five in a row (4-0-1 ATS) and are 20-2 SU in their last 22 outings, but both losses came to Gonzaga by double digits. The Bulldogs won at home on Jan. 14, 79-56 laying 5 points, and at St. Mary’s on Feb. 11, 74-64 giving 4 points. In fact, Gonzaga is 11-2 SU and ATS in the last 13 clashes between these WCC rivals.
North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Clemson Tigers – Open: -6; Move: None
The ACC tournament gets an early start today with this noon Eastern tipoff. No. 13 seed North Carolina State has already started on next season, firing coach Mark Gottfried three weeks ago, though he is finishing out this season. The Wolfpack (15-16 SU, 11-17 ATS) have lost nine of their last 10 SU (2-8 ATS), including their season finale last week at Clemson, 78-74 as a 9-point underdog.
The Tigers (16-14 SU, 12-14-2 ATS) then won their regular-season finale, as well, 82-68 over Boston College as a 12.5-point home favorite. However, a 1-6 SU slide prior to that game and a 2-9 SU nosedive from Jan. 3-Feb. 11 helped relegate Clemson to its status today, among the three first-round games in the ACC tourney.
“The story here is the total, as we’ve adjusted a full five points since opening at 156,” Cooley said, noting that the total was as low as 151 before adjusting a tick to 151.5 this morning. “You’re always going to get the contingent of bettors who believe an early tip on a neutral court will hinder scoring. Right now, we have 80 percent of the money on the under.”
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Georgia Tech Bulldogs – Open: -1; Move: -1.5; Move: -2
It’s another ACC first-rounder, this time between No. 11 seed Georgia Tech and No. 14 seed Pittsburgh. The Panthers (15-16 SU, 12-16-2 ATS) have dumped their last four games, including a 61-52 setback at Georgia Tech as a 1.5-point pup and a 67-42 loss at Virginia on Saturday as an 11-point ‘dog.
The Yellow Jackets (17-14 SU, 15-11 ATS) lost three of their last four regular-season tilts, wrapping up with a 90-61 loss at the hands of Syracuse as an 8.5-point underdog Saturday. On the plus side, prior to that rout, the Jackets were on a 5-1 ATS run. But that hasn’t swayed bettors yet on this 7 p.m. Eastern contest.
“The Panthers have seen early sharp action, but not a ton, which moved the number to -1.5,” Cooley said, shortly before adjusting upward again to -2. “The over has been hit by the wiseguys, as well, which prompted a gradual move from an opener of 129 to a current 132.5. More than 65 percent of the action on the total is on the over.”
Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers vs. Northern Kentucky Norse – Open: -5.5; Move: None
Wisconsin-Milwaukee had only eight wins all season before making a three-game run to tonight’s 7 o’clock Eastern championship game in the Horizon League. After upending No. 2 seed Valparaiso 43-41 as a 9-point underdog on Saturday, the 10th-seeded Panthers (11-23 SU, 11-14-1 ATS) beat No. 6 seed Illinois-Chicago 74-68 catching 2 points Monday night.
Northern Kentucky is also on the upset path as the No. 4 seed, in a conference tourney that saw the top three seeds – Oakland, Valpo and Wisconsin-Green Bay – eliminated in the quarterfinals. The Norse beat No. 5 seed Wright State 82-77 getting 1 point in a Sunday quarterfinal, then topped upstart No. 9 seed Youngstown State 84-74 laying 7 points in a Monday semifinal.
“The whole world might be rooting for the Panthers at this point, but the betting public has been fading the sparkling Cinderella since the outset of the Horizon League tournament,” Cooley said. “It will be interesting to see where they side here.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.