Santa Clara vs #1 Gonzaga Road to March Madness | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Top-ranked Gonzaga hasn’t lost in a calendar year and the Zags remain the +210 favorites on the NCAAB odds to win their first national title. They will also be massive favorites in West Coast Conference action Thursday at home vs. Santa Clara.

How to Bet Santa Clara at Gonzaga NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

These teams were to play three different times earlier this season but both were postponed. Last year, the Zags swept as they usually do. The final score in Spokane was 104-54. The Bulldogs have won 21 straight in the series dating to February 2011. Overall, Gonzaga leads 43-4 and is 20-1 at home.

Why Bet on Santa Clara? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Broncos beat Pepperdine 86-82 on Saturday to snap a two-game skid. Colbey Ross scored 26 points and appeared to have two more when he sank a floater with eight seconds left to Pepperdine to tie the game, but the officials called it a charge and the Broncos (10-6, 4-4 WCC) held on for the win and snapped the Waves’ three-game winning streak. The Waves were forced to foul after that charge call, and Santa Clara made two free throws with seven seconds left to ice the win.

Giordan Williams, who had 10 points, nailed a short jumper over Ross with 20 seconds left for an 84-79 lead. However, Ross raced down court and converted a 3-point play and then Santa Clara’s Jaden Bediako missed a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left to set up the final sequence.

The Waves outshot the Broncos (49.1% to 47.3%) and both teams made seven three-pointers. The biggest difference came at the free throw line, where SCU went 27-for-36 (75.0%) and Pepperdine went 21-for-30 (70.0%). The game turned midway through the second half when Santa Clara went on a 13-2 spurt.

Santa Clara’s point total was its highest during a non-overtime WCC game since a 106-55 home win over Pepperdine on Feb. 16, 2017.

Josip Vrankic posted 26 points, Jalen Williams scored 17, including 13 in the second half, and Christian Carlyle added 16. Santa Clara also set a season-high with 16 assists, including a career-best six by Miguel Tomley and a season-best five from Carlyle. Vrankic moved from 22nd into 20th on the school’s all-time scoring list, passing Marlon Garnett (1993-97/1,346) and Jens Gordon (1985-89/1,356). Vrankic now has 1,369 points. Vrankic recorded his fifth 20-point outing of the season

For the third-straight game, Santa Clara played without second-leading scorer Keshawn Justice due to concussion protocol. It’s not clear if he will play here. Justice has seen action in 63 career games, including 24 starts. His. 3-point field-goal percentage (38.4) ranks tied for sixth on the school’s career list.

Why Bet on Gonzaga? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Zags (22-0, 13-0 WCC) had no trouble Saturday in thrashing San Diego 106-69 to start a season-ending three-game homestand. The Bulldogs took an early lead but the Toreros kept the lead to single digits midway through the first half, 19-11. Gonzaga then went on a 12-0 run to take a commanding 29-11 lead and never looked back.

USD shot 44 percent from the field but could not keep pace with the number one team in the nation, as the Bulldogs hit 56 percent from the field and 21-of-25 from the free throw line. Gonzaga collected 70 points in the paint, compared to 40 for USD and outrebounded the Toreros 47-30. The Toreros forced 14 turnovers, converting to 10 points in the contest but committed 18 which led to 33 points for GU.

Drew Timme scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half and Jalen Suggs added 17 points as Gonzaga won its 26th straight game. Corey Kispert added 16 points to help Gonzaga get its 14th straight victory against San Diego and 49th consecutive win at home. Timme has topped the 20-point mark in six of the past eight games, and has reached double figures in all but one game this season.

Suggs was named one of the five finalists for the 2021 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award. Suggs leads the West Coast Conference in steals per game (2.00). The freshman is also fifth in the WCC in assists per game (4.25), fourth in field goal percentage (51.2 percent), and 11th in scoring (14.05). He’s been named the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Week nine times this season.

The other finalists are Jared Butler (Baylor), Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois), Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State) and Collin Gillespie (Villanova).

Gonzaga already has wrapped up the West Coast Conference regular-season title. The Zags have either won or shared the title for a national-best nine straight years.

Expert Prediction

  • Gonzaga 90, Santa Clara 63

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