Submitted by Wayne Allyn Root on Friday, February 19, 2016 at 2:21 PM
Wayne Root: Gonzaga Seeks Revenge vs. St. Mary's Saturday Night
As of right now, there's a very real chance that Gonzaga will be the only team from the West Coast Conference in the Big Dance. St. Mary's is on the bubble by most accounts. They can't be helped by the fact that they only managed the NIT the past two seasons...and then played poorly in the lesser tournament.
For awhile, both Gonzaga and St. Mary's were decent fades if they were in the Dance. Gonzaga was living off its past reputation for two long. St. Mary's came along for the ride because the whole West Conference was pulled along in Power Ratings by Gonzaga. But, last year Gonzaga did win its first three in the NCAA's before losing to eventual champion Duke in the Elite Eight round. No shame in that!
*You want to fade St. Mary's in either the NCAA's or NIT. In the NCAA's, they're often dealing with travel, an awkward body clock, and inflated expectations. If they're in the NIT, they're disappointed about not reaching in the Dance and play like they don't care. You'd be hard-pressed to find a college team that has more disappointing Dance or NIT results over the past several seasons. Their losses usually miss the mark by a mile.
*You want to fade Gonzaga unless it's a veteran group that has a chip on its shoulder about prior losses. Last year's team had plenty of film to look at from an 84-61 loss to Arizona in the second round in March of 2014, and that awful sequence in 2013 where Gonzaga almost lost to Southern in a 1-16 game, before being clearly outclassed by Wichita State in the second round. Last year's team did impress. This year's probably won't have that same kind of mojo.
Some evidence for Gonzaga struggling this year in the Dance:
*They just lost at SMU this past Saturday night in kind of a "bracket buster" game where making a big statement was critical. Instead, SMU made that statement with a win/cover. I mean...how can Gonzaga scare any national powers from national conferences if they lost by 9 at SMU?
*They lost the first meeting at St. Mary's! Gonzaga will be seeking revenge Saturday because they couldn't win the opener. It's interesting that the betting markets had St. Mary's as a 5-point favorite back then. That meant...at the time...that the composite of best influences thought St. Mary's was the better neutral court team. Man, if they get swept by St. Mary's on the heels of the SMU loss...it could be a very quick exit from the NCAA's next month.
I will be watching Saturday's rematch very closely...because it's my job to OWN all the leagues in my backyard! That means the Pac 12, the Mountain West, the West Coast Conference, and even the WAC and the Big West. Will I be releasing a play? Well, I do value revenge....but I also respect underdog value in rivalry games. You'll have to be a paying customer to find out!
I see the matchup this way...
*I expect playoff style basketball because both teams should have tired legs after playing Thursday night. This is a particularly tough trip for St. Mary's, who had to play in Portland Thursday. If you're trying to pick the winner, focus on who's better suited to winning playoff style basketball. (Hint: look at what these teams have done this year, and under these head coaches in recent seasons vs. quality opposition.)
*St. Mary's has a soft defense by major conference standards. That makes it difficult to love them in an important road game. I won't take the Gaels unless I find some very important negatives for Gonzaga that would counteract that. I'll start with the knowledge that the revenge-minded team will be playing at home vs. a soft defense...then will determine if the line is capturing that reality, or overreacting to it.
I want to thank all of you who were paying customers for my last PINNACLE play, a Wednesday night winner on Texas Tech outright over Oklahoma. Something that strong will definitely be on the Saturday college card heading up the 5-Game Root Trust.
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Have a great weekend. I'll be back soon with more basketball notes. There's so much to keep track of right now in the baskets...particularly out here in Las Vegas. If you're watching ESPN, you're mostly getting the major conference in the East and Central time zones. Who are you going to call for information about the games in my backyard? Obviously, it's time for you to go to W.A.R. alongside WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!