ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (9-0)
vs. GONZAGA BULLDOGS (9-0)
McCarthey Athletic Center – Spokane, WA
Tip-off: Saturday, 10:00 p.m. ET
Line: Gonzaga -12.5, Total: 143.5
Two top-15 teams will square off Saturday night as No. 13 Illinois travels west to take on No. 10 Gonzaga in a clash of 9-0 squads.
Mark Few’s Bulldogs finally looked beatable in their last game, a two-point win against Washington State. But make no mistake—they have looked nasty for most of the season, winning their games by an average of 24.9 PPG. Mostly, Gonzaga has thrived on the offensive end where it owns the nation’s highest field-goal percentage (53.1%) and scores 83.7 PPG, the ninth-highest figure in the country. The Fighting Illini, meanwhile, feature one of the nation’s best scorers in senior guard Brandon Paul (17.8 PPG), who can score from anywhere on the court.
Can Gonzaga remain unbeaten with a huge home win on Saturday? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The StatFox experts are a collective 52% ATS (105-98-6) in college basketball Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary, who is 10-3 ATS (77%) since Nov. 26 and 64% ATS (23-13) for the season. StatFox Brian is 9-4 ATS (69%) since Nov. 30 and sits at 52% ATS (25-23-2) for the season.
The Illini are a great shooting team from downtown, making 41% of their threes, good for 23rd-best in the nation. Paul leads the way with 17.8 PPG on 39% threes, but he also contributes greatly in all categories with 4.4 RPG, 3.9 APG and 1.2 SPG. D.J. Richardson (12.3 PPG, 1.8 SPG) joins him in the backcourt, as does Tracy Abrams (11.3 PPG, 3.4 APG). At 6-foot-9, Tyler Griffey (10.4 PPG) is the team’s only scoring threat with size, but even he prefers to work from beyond the arc, making 1.9 threes per game on a 52% clip this season. That often leaves Egwu alone in the paint. He’ll have to man-up defensively and play physically without getting in too much foul trouble to giving Illinois a chance.
Unlike the Fighting Illini, the Zags are built from the inside out. Harris and Olynyk are the leading scorers while sophomore Kevin Pangos (10.6 PPG, 3.9 APG) runs the offense and does so effectively, turning the ball over just 1.7 times per game. Fellow sophomore Gary Bell Jr. (10.1 PPG) is also a threat from the outside , hitting 1.9 threes per game. Karnowski is the enigma of the team—a 300-pound physical behemoth from Poland, he scored no points in his last game but is making 69% of his field goals on the season and already has two 20-point performances. All these weapons give the Bulldogs the chance to outclass Illinois and prove they belong among the elite teams in college basketball this year.