Within Monday’s college basketball schedule, No. 17 Saint Mary’s battles Santa Clara in the West Coast Conference tournament semifinals. Let’s break down my college basketball best bets for this matchup.
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Saint Mary’s Gaels vs. Santa Clara Broncos
These programs split their regular season series — with the Broncos winning the most recent contest as 2.5-point home underdogs on Feb. 8. So which team possesses value this time around?
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Who Controls The Pace?
While No. 2 seed Saint Mary’s generates the 35th-slowest average possession length across college basketball, No. 5 seed Santa Clara owns the 17th-quickest tempo. The pace in their third meeting of the campaign will boil down to which team owns the glass.
In their second matchup, Herb Sendek’s crew surrendered just nine offensive boards, winning the rebounding margin in the process. Overall, it’s producing the third-highest defensive rebounding rate in conference play. That tends to translate into transition opportunities for point guard Jalen Williams & Co. — where the Gaels’ defense struggles most.
Although Randy Bennett’s bunch presents a sound interior unit against half-court sets, it’s exposable against the fast break. In particular, the 6-foot-9 Joseph Vranic is a crisp rim runner, and his ability to position himself versus a slightly smaller Saint Mary’s frontcourt will be critical.
Broncos A Threat At Full Strength
Santa Clara dealt with absences to Vranic (Mononucleosis) and guard P.J. Pipes (undisclosed) in non-conference play. But as the two got healthier, the Broncos rounded into form shortly into their WCC schedule, winning 10 of their last 13 games. They accrued a dominant 1.18 points per possession in their quarterfinals win against Portland.
Sendek’s half-court defense has been the most surprising improvement along the way, but its perimeter coverage is susceptible in transition. Nevertheless, Saint Mary’s rarely tends to manufacture 3-point looks that way.
Moreover, even though the Gaels boast the conference’s fourth-highest 3-point scoring rate — paced by point guard Tommy Kuhse (45.3%) — I’d expect a rustier performance in their first game back since dominating Gonzaga.
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Saint Marys – Santa Clara Betting Pick
Let’s back the Broncos to at least hang within two possessions, as their opposition is still a little overvalued after their upset win against the Bulldogs in their regular season finale.
Best Available Line: Santa Clara
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