College Basketball Best Bets: Will No. 2 Gonzaga Exploit BYU’s Defense?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on January 13, 2022
College Basketball Best Bets

Although Thursday’s college basketball slate is smaller than the last couple of days, there are still plenty of intriguing games on the oddsboard, including No. 2 Gonzaga and BYU — with the Cougars representing arguably the second-best team in the West Coast Conference. Let’s break down my college basketball best bets for the matchup.

Click on the odds below to place a wager. You can continue the discussion in our Discord betting community, as we dissect all of the games throughout the week.

BYU Cougars @ No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs

In Gonzaga’s first game since the non-conference slate, the Bulldogs (No. 3 in my college basketball rankings) tallied 1.30 points per possession versus Pepperdine while covering as a 30-point home favorite. But they’ll face a much more tenacious Cougars defense this time around.

Even with bigs Gavin Baxter (ACL injury) and Richard Harward (heart condition) out for the season, Mark Pope’s defense is generating the 18th-ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (AdjD).

  • AdjD accounts for a team’s estimated defensive efficiency (on a points scored per 100 possessions basis) against the average Division I offense via college basketball prognosticator Ken Pomeroy.

There are a couple of factors that make this unit’s success viable. Although Pope’s bunch is surrendering the sixth-lowest perimeter clip (26.4%) in college basketball, which may appear unsustainable, its spot-up defense is much-improved.

The Cougars are also forcing teams to score in the mid-range or around the arc, letting up the 57th-lowest near-proximity field attempt rate (lay-ups, dunks and tip-ins via Haslametrics) against the average opponent. It utilizes pack-line principles, and that’s necessary considering the Bulldogs have a size advantage with Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren.

While BYU has a shortage in length, it gang rebounds at a top-50 rate at both ends. Cleaning up the glass will be critical in order to slow down the pace and hang within five possessions.

Nevertheless, Pope’s offense is the biggest question mark. The Cougars run a dribble hand-off motion attack, and it’s fairly predictable for a sound defense like Gonzaga. They’ll need shooting luck from distance as a result, and they haven’t received much — beyond Alex Barcello (45.5%) — this season. If they don’t, the Bulldogs will likely control the tempo in transition.

Let’s wait to see if the market bites on Gonzaga anymore before determining whether there’s enough value.

College Basketball Best Bets: Wait on the market for BYU
Best Available Line: BYU

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Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

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