Coach Rick’s recent hot streak came to end on Thursday when the Houston Rockets decided to go off for 135 points, well above their season average, but I’m still 10-2 in my last 12 picks. Anyway, the loss has sparked a little something in Coach Rick for Saturday’s pick. The No. 2 team in the country heads to Provo, Utah, to take on No. 23 BYU. The Bulldogs have won 19 straight. Will it ever end?
San Francisco vs #2 Gonzaga Highlights | Feb. 20, 2020 | College Basketball
Gonzaga has not lost a game since November 29 when the Bulldogs lost to Michigan. Head coach Mark Few’s squad has dominated the West Coast Conference schedule, which includes a win over BYU at home earlier in the season.
On January 19, BYU lost 92-69 in Spokane. Senior big man Yoeli Childs did not play for the Cougars in that game. Childs is BYU’s leading scorer and rebounder averaging 20.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Having Childs in front of a home Marriott Center crowd of 18,000 will be a huge boost this time around.
BYU has won its last seven straight including their most recent win, an 85-75 defeat of Santa Clara on Thursday night. Guard T.J. Haws, who averages 14.5 points a game, hit all 12 of his free throws and scored 28 points.
The Bulldog Trio
It will take a colossal effort to defeat the nation’s second-ranked team. Gonzaga features a trio of stars starting with leading scorer Filip Petrusev who scores 17.5 points per game. He also leads the Bulldogs in rebounding with 8.0 a game.
Corey Kispert averages 13.9 points a game and leads the team with 70 3-pointers. Killian Tillie is a future NBA draft pick but has been hurt much of the season. Tillie averages 13.5 points and 5.1 rebounds a game.
Not only will the Cougars have to overcome Petrusev, Kispert, and Tillie, they will have to overcome history. Gonzaga has won nine of the last ten meetings with BYU. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 17-6 and have won a record 40 straight WCC games. If Coach Rick just relies on history, Gonzaga looks like the easy pick.
If we add in that Gonzaga is 5-0 ATS in its last five games against BYU, it almost looks like a no-brainer. If you were getting the idea that a ‘but’ was coming, here it is.
But, Gonzaga looked a little off in its last game against San Francisco on Thursday. The Bulldogs committed eight turnovers, shot just 38 percent and scored 22 points in the first half. Now, Few’s team did recover to win by 17, but they appeared beatable.
In its last 19 games, BYU is 13-6 ATS. More importantly, the Cougars are a top-5 offense and the nation’s best 3-point shooting team. What BYU doesn’t do well is steal possessions and rebound on the offensive glass. Those are the things that beat Gonzaga.
Maybe they don’t win, but the Cougars are going to play well at home and keep this one close. Close enough to cover the five-point spread.
Today’s NCAAB Free Pick Against the Spread: BYU +5
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.