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NCAAB: Zags favored in Top 25 matchup

Written by:
Carrie Stroup
Published on:
Jan/29/2009

There's an unlikely Top 25 matchup tonight as #20 Gonzaga hosts #22 Saint Mary's, with the winner taking over first place in the West Coast Conference.

Sportsbook.com has the Zags as 8 ½-point favorites on the home court. ESPN2 has this exceptional matchup starting at 11 pm ET.

This is the first game of the season between two ranked conference opponents from a non-BCS league.

The game is so highly anticipated that some Gonzaga students have been camped outside the McCarthey Athletic Center in subzero wind chill factors since Sunday in the quest for good seats.

To say these teams have been dominating in WCC play would be understating the facts. Gonzaga (14-4, 9-7 ATS) has won five conference games by 28 points per game.

St. Mary's (18-1, 10-5 ATS) isn't far behind, thumping opponents by 22.2 points per game.

Gonzaga owns a six game winning streak, helped by an 89-79 overtime win at Tennessee, which helped restore the Bulldogs confidence after they had lost three in a row. Gonzaga is 7-0 ATS in home games after two or more consecutive Overs in the last three seasons.

Saint Mary's is off to the best start in its history and has a school record 15-game winning streak that is tops in the nation. The Gaels only blemish is a loss to UTEP in late November and they are 6-0 ATS in road games after playing a pair of games as a favorite this season.  

Gonzaga coach Mark Few and St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett are trying to keep things in perspective for their players since they will meet again in Moraga, California, and conceivably a third time in the WCC tournament.

Gonzaga's potent offense averages 79.6 PPG and has four players who routinely score in double figures, led by Josh Heytvelt's 14.7 PPG. Austin Daye is the team's top rebounder at 7.1 per game and throws down 13.8 points.

Matt Bouldin adds 13.1 points and Steven Gray chips in 10.6. Don't neglect reigning WCC Player of the Year, Jeremy Pargo, who averages a league best 5.9 assists per game, while adding 9.2 points.

St. Mary's is led by Patrick Mills, who is averaging 18.7 PPG and is as consistent a player as there is in the country. Mills has scored in double figures in all 19 games this season.

He is complimented by Diamon Simpson, who is averaging 12.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Simpson and center Omar Samhan dominate the glass. The Gaels are 5-0 ATS in their last five road contests.

The last meeting between the teams was also a Top 25 showdown, which was the first in conference history. Gonzaga took down the Gaels 88-76 as seven-point home favorites.

Gonzaga has won 21 of the last 24 games in the series (15-9 ATS), including the last 13 in Spokane dating back to 1995. The favorite has gone 5-2 ATS.

StatFox Power Line - Gonzaga by 11

Carrie Stroup, Gambling911.com Senior Reporter

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