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Only one AP Top 25 team plays on Monday, December 11th; however, that team is the No. 7 Gonzaga Bulldogs (as of Sunday night), who are fresh off a five-point road loss to the unranked Washington Huskies. Now, the Bulldogs will try to bounce back tonight when they host Mississippi Valley State, as the other Huskies (No. 5 UConn) are right around the corner (December 15th.) Check out our best college basketball pick today below!
Date: Monday, December 11
Time: 9:00 pm EST
Moneyline: Mississippi Valley State N/A | Gonzaga N/A
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The spread is 40.5 points… 40.5 points?! Very scarcely will you find a wider line than this one between Mississippi Valley State and the (currently, but not by the time this post is published) seventh-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Gonzaga lost a substantial amount of firepower from last season’s top-ranked offense; Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton, and Malachi Smith are all either in the NBA, G-League, or playing professionally overseas.
Anton Watson, Nolan Hickman, and Ben Gregg were the key returners from Gonzaga’s high-octane attack, but they alone were not going to make the Bulldogs a contender again this season. Head coach Mark Few brought in a couple of players who have substantially helped this team fill in gaps on both ends of the floor, including Graham Ike, Ryan Nembhard, and Braden Huff.
Huff is a 6-foot-10 freshman forward who has been shooting the lights out from the field, boasting a field goal percentage of 63.1% on the season; he also brings a substantial amount of size to Gonzaga’s frontcourt, which helps after Timme’s departure.
Ryan Nembhard is the brother of Indiana Pacers’ point guard, Andrew, and was the lead guard last season for the Creighton Bluejays team that made the Elite Eight and fell just one point shy of a Final Four appearance.
Lastly, Graham Ike is a 6-foot-9 big man who played his first two years at Wyoming, averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds in his sophomore season. Ike has been vital for the Bulldogs this year, posting just shy of 15 points and eight rebounds per game on 57% shooting from the field.
This core of players (Ike, Nembhard, Huff, Watson, and Hickman) all average double-digit points, while Gregg, and Dusty Stromer chip in all over the box score, as well.
While Gonzaga doesn’t have the talent offensively that it did last season (17th in adjusted offensive efficiency this season), its defense has exponentially improved (19th in adjusted defensive efficiency). Can the Bulldogs really cover a 40.5-point spread, though?
Against the worst D-I team in America? Yes, they can.
The ‘Zags are playing Mississippi Valley State, a team that ranks dead last in adjusted efficiency margin and adjusted offensive efficiency (per KenPom) through the first handful of weeks of the 2023-24 regular season.
The Delta Devils have three players who can score: Rayquan Brown, Donovan Sanders, and Arecko Gipson. Browns, Sanders, and Gipson combine for close to 75% of the team’s points, meaning this team is extremely easy to defend: just leave the other two players on the floor open and make them score.
Further, the Delta Devils are 0-9 on the season and are leaps and bounds weaker (in adjEM) than the next-worst team in the country; they have lost all of their games by an average of nearly 34 points including games against CSUN (280th in KenPom’s adjEM), Pacific (341st in KenPom’s adjEM), and Santa Clara (142nd in KenPom’s adjEM).
At this point in the season, it is challenging to see the Delta Devils keeping any game competitive, let alone one against a top-ten team like Gonzaga. The problem with backing Mississippi Valley State in this spot is that its defense is putrid, but its offense is even worse.
And the Bulldogs play fast (76th in adjusted tempo), meaning there will be more possessions in this game than when the Delta Devils played against teams like No. 5 UConn (291st in adjT) and No. 19 Oklahoma (159th in adjT). By the way, UConn still won by 35 and Oklahoma still won by 39 against Mississippi Valley State, despite having fewer possessions than what the ‘Zags will have.
Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.More info on Andrew Norton
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