Sometimes it’s tempting to tout more short-odds favorites to win games, matches, and tournaments. I’d be “correct” more often in the predictions. But to do that would be to make the same mistake as the gambling public often does.
Everyone likes to pick a winner, and sometimes it’s easy enough to call a game straight-up before tip-off. Often the moneyline gives away which team is a massive straight-up favorite. Nobody ever wins actual money by agreeing with the bookmaker, though. Not only must the bettor figure out how to nail a majority of picks, she must also successfully play the odds in order to beat the house.
Last but not least, a finite amount of time and money are involved. Even if there is technically value in a betting line as short as the autumn sunshine in Alaska, it’s not always worth the high risk and low reward in exchange for bothering with it. A long-shot can be wagered on with spare change and pay off in 3 or 4 figures.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are ranked #1 in the NCAA and (-1500) favorites to prevail yet again in the West Coast Conference tournament. BetOnline’s markets for the Las Vegas tourney, which begins on Thursday and finishes up early next week, include Saint Mary’s (+600), San Francisco (+2000), BYU (+2500), San Diego (+10000), and Loyola Marymount (+25000).
Gonzaga and #2 WCC seed Saint Mary’s will profit from a stepladder-bracket that the Bulldog athletic department has pulled strings to help make happen.
Saint Mary’s has the 2nd-shortest line due to record and reputation only, having looked completely helpless against the Zags in February.
When a school is mispriced (on the short side) on a futures board at the sportsbook, there has to be value somewhere in the other odds in the same betting market.
Here’s the WCC tourney bracket:
Few and Far Between
Gonzaga has turned aside opposition in the WCC tourney for several years running. However, this just might be the best Bulldog team of the modern era. That helps explain why the next-best contender is a 6-to-1 futures bet…and possibly overvalued at that. Gonzaga hosted St. Mary’s on 2/9 and made the Gaels look like that visiting High School team that runs the same frail play over and over again and loses by 50 points. The final score was 94-46, but it may as well have been 100-0.
Mark Few’s cagers are a perfect 16-0 in conference play for the first time since 2012-2013. The Zags have decimated conference rivals by an astonishing average of 27 points with no games decided by single digits.
All-American candidate 6’8” junior forward Rui Hachimura leads the Zags with a 20.6 point and 6.7 rebound average. 6’8” redshirt junior forward Brandon Clarke is the other half of a dogged frontcourt duo and a big-time rebounder. Senior floor general Josh Perkins has excelled as a catalyst on the court. It’s easier to distribute the ball successfully when almost everyone on the team can shoot lights-out when they get good looks at the basket. The Bulldogs’ defense and presence on the glass make point-scoring runs seem almost inevitable.
Few will not be seduced into taking it easy and preserving roster health as his #1 priority in the early weeks of the postseason. For other reasons, neither will the rest of the WCC. Gonzaga wants a top March Madness seed and everyone else is working just to hopefully claw-out a spot.
Let’s look closer at a few of the sleepers. Is there anyone the Zags won’t put to sleep?
Saint Mary’s (+600)
The Gaels are on thin ice. Chances for marquee non-conference wins slipped through the squad’s fingertips last semester, and now a WCC postseason crown might be the only thing that can lift St. Mary’s off the bubble and into March Madness. The problem here is that outcome almost-certainly necessitates a win against Gonzaga.
Head coach Randy Bennett’s program was the last to steal the title away from the Zags in 2012. St. Mary’s has been a steady postseason menace, reaching the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitational Tournament in 11 consecutive seasons. Last year’s exclusion from March Madness was unfair and undeserved.
A vibrant duo of 6’1” junior guard Jordan Ford and 6’8” redshirt sophomore forward Malik Fitts has shone the way for the Gaels this season. Ford is a marksman on the perimeter, shooting 43.2% beyond the arc. Fitts has done more of his damage in the paint.
BYU comes to the WCC tournament in an all too familiar spot of 3rd place in the league standings. However, momentum may be on the side of Dave Rose’s squad, which is 6-2 over its last 8 games.
The Cougars have fallen short of the NCAA tournament for the last 3 seasons, but a more-athletic unit could promise better things in short order. 6’8” junior forward Yoeli Childs is a beast in the middle with a near double-double average, and 6’4” junior guard T.J. Haws has been a versatile threat in the backcourt.
San Diego (+10000)
San Diego has to win 5 games in a row as a lowly opening-round seed in the WCC tourney. I still think the Toreros might just be the best sleeper pick on the betting board.
I wouldn’t want my underdog pick against Gonzaga to go in on anything but a searing-hot streak. The fact that
The only thing that will possibly sweep Gonzaga off-kilter in a WCC tournament final is high-energy fanaticism from a squad capable of playing 40-minute defense and getting to the foul stripe. San Diego fits that bill. And while we’re picking out a team that could perhaps beat Gonzaga at long odds, it’s also best to start with the conference rival that has actually kept things tight against the Zags.
On February 16th, unsung power forward Isaiah Pineiro scored 20 points as the swift Toreros put 3 scorers in double-digits and tied Gonzaga 30-30 at halftime. Only a 2-man rebounding exhibition from Hashimura and Clarke saved the Zags in the 2nd half.
Commit the name Olin Carter III to memory as well. The San Diego senior will need to have a shining hour over the next week, but the potential is there if the team gets rolling.
Take the Toreros (+10000) as a small-change upset futures pick in Sin City.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.