McNeese vs. Gonzaga Prediction, Odds and Key Players for NCAA Tournament First Round (Back the Cowboys)

College basketball betting preview, prediction and best bet for McNeese-Gonzaga.

Dec 29, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  McNeese State Cowboys head coach Will Wade coaches during a game against Michigan.
Dec 29, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; McNeese State Cowboys head coach Will Wade coaches during a game against Michigan. / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Will Wade has authored one of the greatest turnarounds in college basketball history. McNeese, which won just 11 games last season, rolled through the Southland Tournament for the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2002. No. 12 McNeese will be a popular upset pick given its 11-game winning streak. Can they threaten No. 5 Gonzaga? 

Gonzaga came up short in the West Coast Conference Tournament title game against Saint Mary’s. Before that loss, the Bulldogs had won nine consecutive games, which included a nice Quad 1 road victory over Kentucky. Can Gonzaga pull away against the upset-minded Cowboys? Here’s the betting breakdown of the first-round matchup with a best bet. 

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McNeese vs. Gonzaga Odds, Spread and Total

McNeese vs. Gonzaga Betting Trends

  • McNeese is 16-13 ATS this season
  • Gonzaga is 15-16 ATS this season
  • McNeese is 4-1 ATS as an underdog this season
  • Gonzaga is 13-14 ATS as a favorite this season
  • The OVER is 16-12-1 in McNeese games this season
  • The OVER is 15-16 in Gonzaga games this season

McNeese vs. Gonzaga How to Watch

  • Date: Thursday, March 21 
  • Game time: 7:25 p.m. EST
  • Venue: Delta Center
  • How to watch (TV): TBS
  • McNeese record: 30-3
  • Gonzaga record: 25-7 

McNeese vs. Gonzaga Key Players to Watch


Shahada Wells: The TCU transfer has led McNeese to new heights in his first season as a Cowboy. The senior guard averages a team-high 17.8 points per game while shooting 47.5% from the field. Wells was stellar in the Southland Tournament, scoring 27 points in both games as the Cowboys lassoed a pair of double-digit wins to make the NCAA Tournament. 


Graham Ike: Ike, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, averages a team-high 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He is shooting 60.5% from the field but is trying to bounce back after a recent shooting slump. Over the last two games, Ike went just 9-of-23 from the field and 2-of-6 at the free-throw line. 

McNeese vs. Gonzaga Prediction and Pick 

This doesn’t feel like a typical Gonzaga NCAA Tournament team that has the firepower to make a deep run. Gonzaga’s offense is elite, but the knock on the Bulldogs is always from a strength-of-schedule perspective while playing in the WCC. 

Gonzaga has some issues with its strength of schedule and lost two of three matchups against Saint Mary’s, the other NCAA Tournament team from the WCC. Gonzaga’s No. 46 defense will face a McNeese offense that can light it up from the perimeter. The Cowboys are the No. 7 three-point shooting team in the nation, per KenPom, and are top-30 in effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage. 

McNeese’s defense can match up well with Gonzaga’s offense, which is No. 9 in efficiency. The Bulldogs do the majority of their damage from inside the arc. Gonzaga scores 58.7% of its points from 2-point range (No. 9 in the nation), and McNeese is No. 29 in the country against 2-point shots. McNeese has all the momentum and enters the NCAA Tournament with 30 wins. They’ll threaten to make it No. 31 on Thursday. Take the points. 

Pick: McNeese +6

Game odds update periodically and are subject to change.