The No. 6 Baylor Bears and the No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs face off in the inaugural Peacock Classic on Friday night.
This is a rematch of the 2021 National Championship but much has changed since then, and although both schools entered this season as title favorites, they've already suffered some embarrassing defeats.
Offensive fireworks are expected at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with college basketball odds opening with a total of 163.5 and the Zags installed as 1.5-point faves. Here are my best free Baylor vs. Gonzaga college basketball picks and predictions for December 2.
Baylor vs Gonzaga best odds
Baylor vs Gonzaga picks and predictions
It's well known that, due to the shot clock and fouling situations in college basketball, second-half totals tend to be approximately 8 points higher than first-half totals. That holds true in this one with the 1H O/U installed at 77.
However, with how both these teams have been playing this year, that disparity might not be nearly big enough. The Zags haven't been quite as good in transition as they have in recent years but both teams have been red-hot from beyond the arc while also allowing opponents to knock down treys at a high rate. It's generally been taking a while for those shooters to heat up and the opening 20 minutes of their contests have seen much lower-scoring numbers than the second half.
The first half of Baylor games have had an average of 72.5 ppg with a second-half total of 87.3 ppg (a whopping differential of 14.8 ppg). Meanwhile, Gonzaga games have seen an average first-half total of 73.7 ppg, while second halves have seen 86.7 ppg.
If you think those numbers might be skewed because of blowout wins against small-conference foes, think again. The first half of Baylor's games against Marquette, UCLA, and Virginia saw an average of 70.3 ppg, while the second half of those games had 91.7 ppg. Gonzaga's high-scoring shootouts versus Xavier, Kentucky, and Texas had 74.7 ppg before halftime and 91.7 ppg after.
I'm expecting another slightly slower start in this one and taking the Under 77 on the first half total.
My best bet: First half Under 77 (-110 at bet365)
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Baylor vs Gonzaga spread analysis
The Zags entered this season tied with North Carolina atop the March Madness futures board but have already lost two games in a tough opening stretch that has seen them play at home just once and go 2-5 ATS.
In their most recent game, they held off Xavier 88-84 to bounce back from an 18-point loss to Purdue in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament. They also got smoked by Texas on the road two weeks ago, although they also have an impressive double-digit victory versus Kentucky on their resume.
That 88-72 win against the Wildcats was technically on a neutral site but took place at Spokane Arena, so they played in front of 12,000 supporters.
It's been a somewhat similar season for Baylor, who came in with the seventh-best odds to win the national title but has already lost twice. The Bears are coming off an ugly 96-70 defeat to unranked Marquette and they also fell to Virginia two weeks ago.
Like the Bulldogs, the Bears also have one impressive victory on their resume when they beat UCLA 80-75 in the consolation round of the Continental Tire Main Event.
Baylor utilizes a three-guard lineup anchored by LJ Cryer (team-leading 17.9 ppg), Adam Flagler (16.9 ppg, 6.9 apg, and 54.2% shooting from the arc), and five-star freshman Keyonte George (14.4 ppg, 4.3 apg). Forwards Jalen Bridges and Flo Thamba are high-energy guys that are expected to run the floor, rebound, and defend but take a back seat on offense.
The Zags are led by second-team All-American big man Drew Timme, who is averaging 20 ppg and 7.4 rpg. Their guard trio of Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton, and Nolan Hickman are shooting a red-hot 44.6% from deep but have been subpar when it comes to taking care of the ball and passing.
The Zags rank outside the Top-200 in turnover rate and opponent turnover rate. They could have a tough time handling the aggressive full-court pressure of Baylor, who ranks 25th in opponent turnover rate and has done a better job of moving the ball on offense.
Baylor vs Gonzaga Over/Under analysis
The O/U opened at 163.5 and has ticked down to 161.5. With such a high total you'd expect both teams to be extremely efficient on offense, play at a blazing-fast tempo, and be vulnerable on the defensive end of the floor. Check, check, and check.
The Zags are first in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom, while the Bears are right behind them in second place. Both squads also rank among the Top-100 schools in adjusted tempo and have been getting torched on their own end in recent weeks.
The Bears are fresh off a contest where they surrendered 96 points to Marquette and two weeks ago gave up 86 points to Virginia, who plays at one of the most sluggish tempos in the country.
The Bulldogs have allowed 82.2 ppg in their last five games, a span that began with the slow-paced Texas Longhorns dropping 93 points against them.
Baylor vs Gonzaga betting trend to know
These teams have combined to go 11-3 to the Over this season. Find more College basketball betting trends for Baylor vs. Gonzaga.
Baylor vs Gonzaga game info
|Location:||Sanford Pentagon, Sioux Falls, SD|
|Date:||Friday, December 2, 2022|
|Tip-off:||8:00 p.m. ET|