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McNeese vs Gonzaga Odds, Picks, Predictions & Props for NCAA Tournament

Sascha Paruk

by Sascha Paruk in College Basketball

Updated Mar 22, 2024 · 2:23 PM PDT

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Ryan Nembhard goes for a layup
Feb 17, 2024; Spokane, Washington, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Ryan Nembhard (0) makes a basket against the Pacific Tigers in the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
  • Making their first March Madness appearance since 2002, the #12 McNeese Cowboys face the #5 Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday
  • Gonzaga has won 14 straight first-round games in the NCAA Tournament
  • Below, see the McNeese vs Gonzaga odds, predictions, and prop picks for March 21

Making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in over two decades, the #12 McNeese Cowboys (30-3, 1-0 neutral, 16-13 ATS) will face a March Madness mainstay in the first round when they tangle with the #5 Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-7, 4-2 neutral, 15-16 ATS) at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on March 21.

One of only four 30-win teams entering the NCAA Tournament, McNeese is also riding an 11-game win streak, third-longest in the country. But oddsmakers have still set the Zags as 6.5-point neutral-court favorites.

McNeese vs Gonzaga Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
McNeese Cowboys +6.5 (-110) +230 Over 149.5 (-115)
Gonzaga Bulldogs -6.5 (-110) -295 Under 149.5 (-105)

The moneyline odds favor Gonzaga at -295/+230 while the game total is at 149.5. Gonzaga was 15-16 O/U this season while McNeese was 16-12-1.

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Odds as of March 20 at BetMGM. Check out the best March Madness betting apps before wagering on McNeese vs Gonzaga on Thursday. 

The winner of the 5-vs-12 matchup in the Midwest will face the winner of #4 Kansas vs #13 Samford in the round of 32 in the 2024 March Madness bracket.

McNeese Dominates Southland in Will Wade’s First Season

Former LSU boss Will Wade didn’t travel far when his tenure in Baton Rouge came to an end. Wade moved just two hours west to Lake Charles in order to take over a McNeese program that hadn’t finished with a winning record since 2012.

Wade added a boatload of transfer talent to a team that was already returning leading scorer and rebounder Christian Shumate. Most importantly, Wade coaxed Shahada Wells from TCU, and the senior point guard has been sensational for the Cowboys, averaging a team-high 17.8 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.0 steals per game.

Aside from Shumate (11.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG), all of McNeese’s top-five scorers are transfers.

The Cowboys only faced one NCAA Tournament team during the regular season, a massively impressive 81-60 true-road win over UAB, the eventual AAC champion. They went 17-1 in Southland play and then dominated both of their conference-tournament games: 76-57 over Lamar and 92-76 over Nicholls State, both at home.

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This will be just the third ever NCAA Tournament appearance for McNeese. The Cowboys lost to #1 Illinois as a #16 in 1989 (77-71) and to #3 Mississippi State as a #14 in 2002 (70-58).

In five total March Madness appearances (two with VCU and three with LSU), Wade is 4-5 straight-up as a head coach. His best run came in 2019 when he led LSU to the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga Finds Its Footing Late

With one transfer running the point (Ryan Nembhard, Creighton) and another the focal point in the post (Graham Ike, Wyoming), it took this year’s Gonzaga team ample time to coalesce. They started the season an un-Gonzaga-like 11-5 including a 77-76 loss at Santa Clara as 7.5-point favorites.

But that upset at the hands of the Broncos seemed to be a catalyst for Mark Few’s team, which went 14-2 the rest of the way. Both losses came to WCC-champion Saint Mary’s: 64-62 in Spokane and 69-60 in Las Vegas in the WCC Tournament final. They got one back against the Gaels in the final game of the regular season, pounding Saint Mary’s 70-57 in Moraga as 3.5-point underdogs. Gonzaga also beat Kentucky 89-85 at Rupp Arena in early February as 4.5-point road underdogs.

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The Zags faced two teams that earned #1 seeds in the March Madness bracket during the regular season: Purdue (73-63 neutral-court loss) and UConn (76-63 loss in Seattle). While they were outclassed by UConn (trailing 13-8 after five minutes and never getting within three thereafter), the Purdue game was closer than the final score suggests.  Gonzaga led by as many as nine in the first half and held a 35-30 lead at the break before a monster second half from the Boilermakers.

Overall, Gonzaga went 9-6 against KenPom top-100 teams this year, but only 3-5 against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

McNeese vs Gonzaga Player Props

Player Points Rebounds Assists Three-Pointers Made
Anton Watson (GONZ) 13.5 (Ov -125 | Un -115) 6.5 (Ov -120 | Un -120) 2.5 (Ov +140 | Un -180) OFF
Ben Gregg (GONZ) 9.5 (Ov -120 | Un -120) 5.5 (Ov -145 | Un +105) OFF 2.5 (Ov +140 | Un -180)
Christian Shumate (MCN) 11.5 (Ov -130 | Un -110) 8.5 (Ov -130 | Un -110) OFF OFF
DJ Richards Jr (MCN) 9.5 (Ov -135 | Un -105) OFF OFF 1.5 (Ov -190 | Un +145)
Graham Ike (GONZ) 16.5 (Ov -120 | Un -125) 7.5 (Ov -100 | Un -140) OFF OFF
Javohn Garcia (MCN) 11.5 (Ov -125 | Un -115) 3.5 (Ov -100 | Un -140) OFF 0.5 (Ov -200 | Un +150)
Nolan Hickman (GONZ) 13.5 (Ov -135 | Un -105) 2.5 (Ov +125 | Un -165) 2.5 (Ov -125 | Un -115) 1.5 (Ov -155| Un +115)
Ryan Nembhard (GONZ) 14.5 (Ov -115 | Un -125) 4.5 (Ov +105 | Un -145) 6.5 (Ov -120 | Un -120) 1.5 (Ov +135 | Un -175)
Shahada Wells (MCN) 16.5 (Ov -125 | Un -115) 3.5 (Ov -120 | Un -120) 4.5 (Ov -110 | Un -130) 1.5 (Ov +130 | Un -170)

McNeese vs Gonzaga college basketball player props from DraftKings on March 20, 2024.  

Ike and Wells, the teams’ two leading scorers, both have point totals of 16.5 O/U, while McNeese’s Shumate has the highest rebound total on the board at 7.5.

Nembhard (6.7 APG), who’s recorded at least ten assists in three straight games and at least six assists in ten straight, has a game-high assist total of 6.5.

McNeese vs Gonzaga Prediction

McNeese didn’t have to contend with much competition during its Southland schedule. The next-best team in the conference (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) was just 181st at KenPom, 120 spots lower than McNeese (61st) by season’s end. But they played their share of difficult non-conference games, including true-road wins at VCU (76-65) and Michigan (87-76) plus the aforementioned victory at UAB.

Only one of McNeese’s three losses this year came by more than a bucket (71-62 at Louisiana Tech).

The issue for McNeese will be preventing second looks for the Zags. The undersized Cowboys are just 244th in the nation in defensive-rebound percentage, and that’s while playing a Southland schedule. The Zags finished 52nd out of 362 DI teams in offensive-rebound percentage.

McNeese is also running into the Zags at a time when Ryan Nembhard – brother of NBAer Andrew Nembhard – is playing the best basketball of his life. McNeese’s defense needs to force turnovers to be effective. (The Cowboys finished fifth in the country in turnover percentage on defense.) Nembhard is one of the most-circumspect point guards in the nation and Gonzaga, as a team, is 16th in turnover percentage on offense at just 14%.

It’s difficult to see Gonzaga running away with this, but I’m not prepared to back a McNeese upset either, especially in light of the fact that Mark Few has won 14 straight first-round games.

McNeese vs Gonzaga picks:

  • McNeese +6.5 (-110) – two units
  • Nembhard over 6.5 assists (-120)
  • Wells over 16.5 points (-125)
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