In a battle of undefeated teams, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (9-0 SU) host the Illinois Fighting Illini (9-0 SU) Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Both teams are currently ranked in the Top 15 in both the AP and Coaches' poll, and the winner of this one is sure to make an early statement to pollsters across the country.
Gonzaga, winning by an average of nearly 25 points per game so far this season, is expected to open as small favorites, according to the matchup report.
The Fighting Illini are off to a 4-3 against-the-spread (ATS) start. This game will serve as a valuable early-season road test for the Illini. In two road games so far, Illinois topped Hawaii 78-77 in overtime as an 8.5-points road favorite and Chaminade 84-61 as a 14.5-point favorite.
Senior guard Brandon Paul is off to a sensational start, ranking second in the Big Ten in scoring with 17.8 points per game.
Gonzaga is 5-3 ATS through its first nine games, but Illinois will be the Bulldogs’ toughest test of the season by far. The Bulldogs have been favored by at least nine points in all eight games that have featured a spread.
They enter Saturday’s game on an 0-2 ATS streak after failing to cover as a 20.5-point favorite over Pacific and an 11.5-point road favorite over Washington State. Gonzaga has four players averaging over 10 points per game, led by senior forward Elias Harris.
Saturday’s game features two of the nation’s more exciting offenses as the Illini rank 31st in the nation, averaging 78.7 points per game and Gonzaga ranks 9th, averaging 83.7 PPG. The total has gone OVER in two of Illinois’ last three games and each of Gonzaga’s last three games that featured a total.
The total has also gone OVER in three of the last four games between these two teams.
The Fighting Illini have owned this head-to-head series in recent years. In five meetings since 2001, the Illini are 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS against the Bulldogs. In their most recent meeting in 2011, Illinois topped Gonzaga 82-75 at home as a three-point favorite.
Four of these five games were in Illinois; the one game in Gonzaga came in 2010 and was a 73-61 Illinois win.