/Back Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament and why tired teams will struggle to score in conference title games
Back Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament and why tired teams will struggle to score in conference title games

Back Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament and why tired teams will struggle to score in conference title games

Hello, and Happy Monday! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m very excited about tonight and the rest of the week. Especially coming off of an odd Sunday night. I don’t know what you guys were up to, but when I would check Twitter at odd moments, my timeline consisted of nothing but tweets about the NBA All-Star Game, a wrestling pay-per-view, and the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan. Three things it would have been difficult for me to care less about than I do.

Well, that’s somewhat misleading. I enjoy a lot of the festivities surrounding the NBA All-Star Game in a typical year, but this season, without any fans and with everything sandwiched into one night, it didn’t have the same buzz. I’ve never been a big fan of the actual game itself, at least not until the fourth quarter when both teams would start playing actual basketball.

Anyway, let’s get back to the subject. Not only do we have the Champions League returning on Tuesday, but we’ve still got college basketball wrapping up the season. Many smaller conferences are wrapping up their tournaments in the next few days (and we have two finals tonight, which I have picks for below), but the major conferences will begin their tournaments as well.

All of which means we’re going to have so many daytime sports over the next week. As I’ve said here before, there’s nothing better than sweating a bet before noon on a weekday (I have not had children, so my perspective may differ from yours, but it might not, either). We’re going to have the chance to do that a lot this week.

Now let’s dive headfirst into some mid-major college basketball degeneracy.

All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Gonzaga -18 (-110)
: All right, listen, some of you are college basketball die-hards. You follow the sport closely and have known all about Gonzaga this season. You’ve watched a lot of their games. For the other 99% of you, now is the time of year when you need to start doing your research on teams. Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the country and has been for nearly the entire season. Tonight, with such a limited slate of action in the sports world, is one of the best chances you’ll have to watch it before the NCAA Tournament, so we might as well bet on it.

Jonathan Coachman is joined by Mike McClure and Larry Hartstein to dish out the best bets for Monday. Download and subscribe to The Early Edge on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

And when betting Gonzaga games, particularly against its West Coast Conference mates, it’s hard to bet against Gonzaga. Don’t get me wrong, Gonzaga is an outstanding team, and it has proven multiple times that it can hang with the big dogs. It has nonconference wins over Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa and Virginia this season. But the Bulldogs do benefit from playing in a weaker conference that doesn’t provide nearly the same number of challenges that playing in the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, or any other power conference on a nightly basis would provide. St. Mary’s is one of the better teams in the conference, and it is rated as the 76th best team in the country by KenPom. Gonzaga has already beaten it twice this season, once by 14 on the road and 22 at home. The first loss saw St. Mary’s get off to a 20-11 start early in the game before Gonzaga outscored the Gaels 62-39 over the final 30 minutes. Gonzaga is light years better than St. Mary’s, but the thing we have to worry about is the Gaels’ pace. They’re one of the slowest moving teams in the country, and they’ll try to use that pace to keep this one as close as possible. More times than not, I don’t think it’ll work.

Key Trend: Gonzaga is 4-1 ATS at neutral sites this season.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model has had plenty of time to simulate this game, and while it doesn’t see a whole lot of value on the spread, it does find one side of the total to be enticing.

💰The Picks

🏀 College Basketball

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Georgia State vs. Appalachian State, 7 p.m | TV: ESPN2
The Pick: Under 136 (-110) —
I have a long-standing principle that has treated me very well over the years. I bet the under in conference tournament finals. Blindly. I began doing it about six or seven seasons ago, and the only time I’ve had a losing season was last year when the COVID-19 pandemic shut the season down. The principle had gone 2-3 to that point. Well, it’s back this year, and I plan on winning more money with it.

The overall philosophy is simple. By the time we reach the final of a conference tournament, teams are typically playing (at least) their third game in three days. They’re tired. Then, particularly when it comes to the smaller, one-bid conferences, there’s plenty of nerves to deal with. Not only are you playing for a conference championship, but odds are you’re playing for an NCAA Tournament berth too. With the stakes so high, teams tend to get tight. A conservative approach and tired legs lead to lower-scoring games than you would typically see. Georgia State is playing its third game in three days, and for Appalachian State, this is its fourth game in four days. The winner goes to the dance. The loser likely goes home. No pressure.

Key Trend: The under is 4-1 in the last five Sun Belt Conference Championship games.

UNC Greensboro vs. Mercer, 7 p.m | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 136.5 (-110) —
We’re using the same principle in this spot that we did in the previous game. The Southern Conference, like the Sun Belt, is a one-bid league. Only the winner of this game will play in the NCAA Tournament. UNC Greensboro is playing its third game in three nights. Mercer is playing its fourth in four. Tired legs. Nerves.

We’re not overthinking this one. We’re just trusting the process.

Key Trend: The under has gone 3-0 the last three seasons in the Southern Conference Championship game.

⚽ Champions League

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Borussia Dortmund vs. Sevilla, Tuesday, 3 p.m | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Borussia Dortmund (+119) —
This was undoubtedly one of the more exciting matches from the first legs in the Round-of-16, as Dortmund beat Sevilla 3-2 in Spain. Unfortunately, I picked Sevilla to win the match, but that isn’t impacting how I feel about this one. No, what’s pushing me in Dortmund’s direction here is how Sevilla has played since that loss.

While Sevilla won its next match against Osasuna, it wasn’t in impressive fashion. Osasuna is a mediocre team in La Liga, and though Sevilla won 2-0, it did so with an xG of only 0.7. It has lost three straight matches since, and although two of them have come against Barcelona (once in league play, once in the Copa del Rey), the other loss came to an Elche team fighting to avoid relegation on Saturday. Sevilla’s attack has seemingly disappeared, and defensively it is being picked apart. Those aren’t ideal conditions for a team that has to face Erling Haaland and Dortmund. Dortmund isn’t perfect, either, but it has been the better of these two teams in recent weeks.

Key Trend: Sevilla has lost four of its last five matches.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: European soccer insider Martin Green just revealed his best bets for the deciding Round of 16 match in Dortmund, Germany.

🏀 Monday Night Parlay

We don’t have a lot of options on the board, but here’s a small money line parlay for tonight. It pays +164.

  • Hofstra -220
  • South Dakota State -210
  • BYU -440