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The Matchup: #1 Gonzaga vs #5 Creighton
Where to Watch: Sunday, 2:10 p.m. EST on CBS (@ Hinkle Fieldhouse)
The Odds: Gonzaga -13 (-1000 ML), Creighton +13 (+650 ML), 158 O/U
Gonzaga was the odds on favorite to win it all entering the NCAA Tournament, and after a 43-point thrashing of Norfolk State and a 16-point win against Oklahoma, the perception of the Bulldogs have only solidified. Gonzaga carries with it an undefeated record, the #1 rated offense in the nation and the #7 rated defense heading into their Sweet Sixteen showdown with the Creighton Bluejays. Gonzaga’s roster is stocked with talent as point guard Jalen Suggs continues to make a case for being a top player in the upcoming draft. Corey Kispert has also established himself as one of the best shooters in the country and is seemingly bound to be an NBA lottery pick. Drew Timme, also sure to get drafted, will own the paint against Creighton’s undersized front court in this matchup. Gonzaga has indeed covered the spread in each of its two tournament games and in six of its last eight games overall. The public will certainly look to back the Bulldogs here again though, which could create an inflated number on Gonzaga at most books.
Creighton, the 20th ranked team in the country according to Kenpom, rallied to win by one point versus UC Santa Barbara in the opening round after a blowout loss to Georgetown in the Big East tournament. The Bluejays showed their true capabilities, however, in a convincing 14-point win against Ohio in the Round of 32. To say this is a step up in class for Creighton would be a massive understatement, although this club carries some clout into the game in being ranked 23rd in offense, 32nd in defense, 14th in effective field goal percentage and 28th in turnover percentage. If Creighton is going to win straight up or against the spread against Gonzaga, it will need to do so on the back of 39.5% three-point shooter MItchell Ballock, as well as Marcus Zegaroski, who was named to the All-Big East team. There is a significant talent disparity between these two teams, but it's not inconceivable that Creighton could sneak inside the number with the public driving up the spread, especially given Gonzaga's lack of competition of late in both the West Coast Conference, WCC Tournament and opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
The Matchup: #2 USC vs #7 Oregon
Where to Watch: Sunday, 9:45 p.m. EST on TBS (@ Bankers Life Farmhouse)
The Odds: USC -2 (-127 ML), Oregon +2 (+108 ML), 138 O/U
USC entered the NCAA Tournament after a loss to Colorado in the Pac 12 Tournament, but the Trojans quickly regained their winning ways in impressive victories (with margin) over Drake (16 points) and Kansas (34 points). There are few teams in the country that are more well-rounded than USC, which boasts the 15th ranked offense and 5th ranked defense in the country. Sunday's 9:45 p.m. EST tilt will feature the second rematch of the Sweet Sixteen, as back on February 22, it was USC which dominated Oregon in a 14-point conference win. If the Trojans want a repeat of that outcome this weekend, then they will do so on the back of 7-foot center and consensus #2 NBA overall draft pick, Evan Mobley. After an impressive regular season, Mobley has been a force in this tourney and will look to build his resume as possibly becoming the top pick in the draft. He should be able to continue his dominance here as well, especially without Oregon’s N’Faley Dante, who was lost to a knee injury back in December.
Oregon is the only team left in the dance that only has one win due to VCU’s COVID-19 issues in the first round. The Ducks advanced to the Round of 32 without ever stepping onto the court, but in that second round they made light work of #2 seeded Iowa in a surprising upset behind the nation’s 10th ranked offense. The Ducks don’t have an Evan Mobley type player on their team, but what they do have is five players averaging 10 or more points. There is little doubt they will be able to keep up with the Trojans on offense. The real question will come down to how or if they will be able to contain USC’s big man. With the line set at USC -2 and Kenpom’s prediction of a USC four-point victory, this should definitely be a closer game than their first matchup. Don't underestimate the presence of Dana Altman for Oregon either.