There are just five ranked programs in action on Thursday’s college basketball schedule, but one of the top matchups is an unranked affair with San Francisco at Saint Mary’s. Let’s dissect my college basketball best bets for this WCC clash.
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San Francisco Dons at Saint Mary’s Gaels
Todd Golden’s bunch is aiming to avenge a home loss to the Gaels on Jan. 27, in which the Dons blew a 23-point first-half lead. San Francisco would all but clinch a spot for the NCAA tournament with an outright win too.
On the flip side, Saint Mary’s is outperforming its shooting metrics by three wins (via ShotQuality). That’s in large part due to its positive shooting variance from behind the arc and at the rim, along with free-throw luck.
Although the Gaels generate the 74th-highest perimeter clip in the country (35.6%), they’re going up against one of the premier pressure defenses. The Dons are surrendering the 15th-fewest 3-point attempts in the country, so don’t expect many clean looks for Tommy Kuhse & Co.
Moreover, Randy Bennett’s unit also operates its offense through dribble penetration and post-ups, but San Francisco excels at defending both. Golden’s frontcourt showcases plenty of size with transfers Yauhen Massalski and Patrick Tape. Despite Saint Mary’s center Matthias Tass posting 27 points in the previous matchup, he needed 20 shot attempts to get there. Massalski accrued seven blocks in the process as well.
The two bigs are even leading the Dons to a top-80 rebounding rate at both ends. Their effort will be vital towards upping the tempo while prohibiting the Gaels from playing at their methodical pace.
On top of that, San Francisco missed six crucial second-half free throws in the first meeting, including the front-end of two one-and-ones. Considering it’s average in that department during WCC play, don’t expect that to develop into a trend.
If the Dons find their way into the big dance, they’ll be one of the most dangerous mid-major programs involved. They’ll deliver a motivated effort as a result against an overvalued Saint Mary’s team.
Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: San Francisco +3 (-110)
Best Available Line: San Francisco