BYU vs. Saint Mary’s WCC Tournament Semifinal Betting Preview: Can Cougars Extend Life Another Game?

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Mitchell Saxen of Saint Mary's blocks a shot by Dallin Hall of Brigham Young during their game January 28, 2023. Chris Gardner/Getty Images/AFP

NCAAB Pick: BYU +6.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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Saint Mary’s and BYU square off in the West Coast Conference Tournament Semifinals for the fourth time in the last seven events, and we’ve got a free college basketball pick for what could be the final WCC game for the Cougars. 

Remember, fans from the Beehive State who want to wager on this game should check out our top-rated Utah betting sites.

BYU Cougars vs. Saint Mary’s Gaels 

Monday, March 6, 2023 – 09:00 PM EST at Orleans Arena 

Mark Pope and the BYU Cougars are headed to the Big 12 later this summer, and they’d like nothing more than to leave an exclamation point on their exit from the West Coast Conference by winning the tournament. 

Randy Bennett and the Saint Mary’s Gaels couldn’t give a rat’s rump where BYU plays basketball next season. The Gaels just want to continue another fine season by winning the WCC crown and potentially exorcising some demons against league bully Gonzaga

The early tip among the two conference semifinal matchups Monday night in Las Vegas, Pope and the Cougars also understand that their only way into the NCAA Tournament is to earn the automatic bid by winning the West Coast title, adding desperation to the handicap mix. 

Little to No Movement in Overnight Betting 

Various shops first introduced the NCAAB odds Sunday afternoon, and the 6.5-point chalk that landed on Saint Mary’s remains at most outlets though a few have dropped it to an even 6.

Monday’s scoreboard target is holding on at 130.5 points. 

How the Cougars Got Here 

Picked alongside each other on the college basketball futures to play bridesmaids to Gonzaga back in November, BYU and Saint Mary’s is something of a surprise pairing for one-half of the WCC semis, at least according to the seedings. 

Brigham Young slid into the No. 5 seed in the league after a 7-9 showing in conference play, winning a three-way tiebreaker for the slot from San Francisco and Pacific. The Cougars sat idle in the tournament’s first round before beating Portland, 82-71, on Friday. 

They were favored by 6 in that contest, and the Cougars were chalked 3 points in Saturday night’s 73-63 takedown of Loyola Marymount. Rudi Williams had 23 points in the quarterfinals, sinking 11-of-12 from the charity stripe where BYU outscored the Lions 21-8. 

How the Gaels Got Here 

It’s certainly not uncommon to see Saint Mary’s in the conference semifinals, nor is it uncommon to hear about the Gaels exceeding expectations under Bennett. This team wasn’t getting any love in the preseason AP poll, and only a sniff from the coaches. 

Though not to the same extent as a season ago, Saint Mary’s beat the expectations more often than not at top-rated sportsbooks by covering spreads. It added up to sharing the regular season title with nemesis Gonzaga while earning the No. 1 seed via the tiebreaker. 

If there’s one problem the Gaels have in reaching the semifinals for the second consecutive year – and 11th time in the last 15 seasons – it’s that they have been idle for more than a week now since losing the regular season finale in Spokane. 

Rivalry History & Betting Trends 

Bennett and the Gaels busted out their brooms with a season sweep against BYU. Saint Mary’s enters Monday’s matchup with three consecutive wins over the Cougars that have pushed the Gaels ahead in the rivalry with a 19-18 record all-time. 

A 71-65 win a little more than two weeks ago in Moraga gave the Gaels a slim advantage in the series. Saint Mary’s was favored by 10 at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) and had to hold off a late challenge by BYU behind Logan Johnson’s game-high 27. 

It was pretty much the same story when the teams met in Provo back in late January. The Gaels were favored by 6.5, scooted out to an early 10-point lead in the first half, and then held off the Cougars for a 57-56 decision. 

  • By covering both of this year’s clashes, the Cougars have now beaten the spread in their last six meetings against the Gaels, two of those as favorites. 
  • This is the fourth time the Gaels and Cougars have met in the WCC Tournament, each of the previous three coming in the semifinals and Saint Mary’s winning two of them. 
  • February’s game in Moraga got past a 136-point total, stopping a string of six consecutive ‘under’ winners between the teams. 

Cougs Keep it Close 

There is just something about Saint Mary’s extended break that bugs me. Bennett has no doubt been keeping his guys busy, but it’s still going to take a while for the Gaels to get back up to game speed

Then there’s the desire on BYU’s part to extend their West Coast Conference life one more game. An outright upset won’t surprise me, but I’ll take the points just to be safe. 

NCAAB Pick: BYU +6.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.