There is another top five battle taking place this weekend, so we will dive headfirst into the Texas-Gonzaga betting odds here.
Gonzaga is, once again, the best team in college basketball. They are No. 1 in the AP poll. They have two of the three best players in the country with Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. They have talented, veteran guards that are versatile. They have proven, again and again, that they can play with anyone in the country.
At the same time, Texas is also loaded, albeit with a team that looks drastically different than it did last season. Chris Beard has replaced Shaka Smart. Seven transfers have joined the fold, including three that are going to be expected to start.
Does Beard have what it takes to bring the Longhorns across the country and win in Spokane?
TEXAS vs. GONZAGA BETTING ODDS
GAME TIME: 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
MONEYLINE: Gonzaga -420 ML, Texas +280 ML
SPREAD: Gonzaga -7.5
TEXAS vs. GONZAGA PREDICTION
On the surface, this one seems like a pretty obvious pick.
If you’re telling me that I can get 7.5 points, Chris Beard and a top five roster, it almost doesn’t matter the venue or the opponent. I’m taking all of that.
But let’s break this game down a little bit deeper to see if it makes sense.
First and foremost, we need to talk about the Texas defense. Beard’s Texas Tech teams made the no-middle defense something that has been copied by more than one program — ahem, sup Baylor — and it’s something that he is going to take with him to Austin. The no-middle defense is exactly what it sounds like: The entire goal is to keep the ball on one side of the floor. On-ball defenders overplay to force the dribbler baseline while off-ball defenders prevent a pass to get the ball to the other side of the floor. Since the defense knows where the dribbler will be going, they can “pre-help”, meaning that there will always be a defender waiting to take a charge on the block and a weak side defender cutting off baseline passing lanes.
The way to beat this defense is to have multiple big guards that can play off the dribble, that will be poised enough not to dribble head-first into an offensive foul and that can find shooters on the weak side of the floor. Gonzaga has four or five of those guys, and they have a ton of shooting. Perhaps most importantly, they have experience against a defense like this … they but-kicking they were on the wrong side of in the national title game.
Now, here’s the thing. The no-middle defense is a little bit like the Syracuse zone in the sense that it is a nightmare to try and prepare for in one day. Gonzaga will have had a full offseason to prepare tonight.
So I do think that they are rightfully favored.
And I do think that they are going to probably win.
But this is too many points. Texas is not going to let Gonzaga run. They are going to much this game up, keep it in the 60s and make sure that it is something that is played possession by possession.
Which is why I like the under, and why I like Texas +7.5.