For one team it is a possibility to get into the big dance, the NCAA tournament; for the other, it is just cementing their seeding. On Tuesday, the West Coast Conference will be decided when Saint Mary’s Gaels (21-11) and the No. 1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs (30-2) matchup at Orleans Arena. This will be the third time that these two teams have matched up. The first time, on February 9, Gonzaga obliterated St. Mary’s, 94-46. The second time, on March 2, was a much more respectable 69-55 score. Still, it would be an absolute stunner if St. Mary’s were to pull off an upset, but that is exactly what they will be looking to do Tuesday evening. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:00 pm ET.
By The Numbers
Offensively, Gonzaga has been the best scoring team in the nation this season. They currently rank atop the list averaging 89.8 points per game. The Bulldogs shoot absolutely lights out from the field as their shooting percentage is 53.4% (also ranked first in the NCAA). For St. Mary’s, they have averaged a very respectable 73.5 points per game, ranking 152nd in the nation.
On the defensive side, it is much closer statistically than on the offensive side. St. Mary’s currently ranks 35th in the nation, allowing an average of 65 points per game. For Gonzaga, they come in tied for 32nd in the nation, allowing just 64.9 points per game.
St. Mary’s Looking To Do The Improbable
They say that beating a team three times is immensely tough and that is a cliché that the St. Mary’s Gaels are hoping comes true. After holding off San Diego lat Monday night, 69-62, the Gaels are hoping that they can upset the top-ranked (both in the conference and the nation) Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Leading the way this season for the Gaels has been junior guard Jordan Ford. On the season, he is averaging 21.4 points per game on 49.8% shooting from the field and 43.3% shooting from behind the arc. In addition to his scoring, he is also chipping in 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Aside from Ford, forward Malik Fitts is their only other player averaging double-digits. He is scoring 15.5 points per game on 47.3% shooting. He is also averaging 7.7 rebounds, 1 assist and 1.2 steals per game. Once you get past Ford and Fitts, though, there isn’t a ton of scoring for the Gaels. Tanner Krebs (8.8 points), Jordan Hunter (7.8 points) and Tommy Kuhse (6.1 points) are their next leading scorers.
Bulldogs Hope To Be Fine-Tuned For NCAA Tournament
Since rising to number one in the rankings, Gonzaga has not relinquished their grasp on it. With only one game separating themselves between now and “Selection Sunday,” they don’t want to do anything that will mess up their chances for a number one overall seed in the March Madness tournament. With that in mind, expect the Bulldogs to come out fierce on Tuesday night.
Leading thew ay for the Bulldogs this season has been forward Rui Hachimura. On the season, Hachimura is averaging 20.4 points on a whopping 61.1% shooting from the field. He is also averaging 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and a steal per game.
Unlike the Gaels, the Bulldogs have plenty of scoring behind Hachiumura. Brandon Clarke (16.6 points on 69.2% shooting as well as 8.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 3.2 blocks per game), Zach Norvell Jr. (15.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.4 steals) and Josh Perkins (11 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.4 steals) have all had nice seasons.
Gonzaga To Win, But By How Much
Despite the fact that they played them closer in their last contest, I just don’t think St. Mary’s has enough to run with Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have a rare combination of elite offense and elite defense. They can smother you on the defensive side while being able to put up points in a hurry. It will be interesting to see what St. Mary’s defense comes out to play. Will it be the one that allowed 94 points in the first contest or the one that allowed a much more modest 69 points in the second game? Regardless, I think this one is all Gonzaga, and I think they run away not only with the outright win, but also cover the spread as well. For me, I am all-in on Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference championship.