St. Mary's (24-5) Vs. Gonzaga (25-5)
The Line: Gonzaga -7
Monday, March 9, 2009; 9 PM EST
While the records are very close, there are some major differences between these two teams. The first and most obvious of those differences is that Gonzaga beat St. Mary's twice this season. While neither of those games was a blowout, they were wins nonetheless. Gonzaga also went 15-0 in all WCC play so far this season.
If you look at who these teams played, it isn't really close either. Gonzaga's schedule included Tennessee (twice), UConn, Memphis, Utah, and Arizona, among others. St. Mary's really never comes close to any of those teams outside of playing the Zags.
This is the same reason why teams with records so close are looked at so wildly different, as Gonzaga is ranked 14th in the country and St. Mary's is unranked. The Gaels were, however, ranked at one point this season, prior to their first loss to Gonzaga.
Despite the two losses, I think St. Mary's has proven to themselves that they can play with Gonzaga. They just haven't gotten over the hump to beat them. I've talked a lot all season about how when one team in a mid-major conference becomes a powerhouse, it brings up the whole rest of the conference, and we see challengers and teams who really can play.
While some can argue St. Mary's deserves to go to the NCAA Tournament whether they win or lose, most feel they need a win in this game to go. It will be interesting to see how the Gaels stand up to the pressure.
See the rest of Mitch's free College Basketball picks against the spread.