Oregon State Beavers vs Loyola-Chicago Ramblers -6.5, 125.5
Oregon State lost to Portland this year. This was not the Trailblazers, it was the team that went 0-11 in the West Coast Conference. They now find themselves in the sweet 16 facing off against the Missouri Valley Conference champs, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.
The fact that they busted brackets is not the only thing these two teams have in common. They both play extremely tight defense and move the ball at their own pace, which is slow. This game has first to 60 wins written all over it. The Ramblers were able to run whatever they wanted on offense against the Illini, that won’t be the case on Saturday. The Beavers have imposed their will on everyone since the start of the Pac12 tournament.
The Beavers can rely on Ethan Thompson to get points and they have a solid point guard that will keep them in the game down the stretch, oh and they are the 2nd best free throw shooting team left in the tournament (that is huge). The Rambler’s are better on the offensive end which should get them the win, but the Beavers are too hot, they keep this close.
Pick: Oregon State +6.5, Under 125.5
Villanova Wildcats vs. Baylor Bears -6.5, 141
I am not going to pretend that I didn’t pick North Texas to upset Villanova. I thought the loss of Colin Gillispie was going to be a problem against the defense of North Texas, Nova came out like they were playing NBA Jam on fire mode. They have been solid from deep all year, shooting 35%, if they can continue to hit shots they can keep it competitive. Their offense running through Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is not going to be the problem, their effective field goal percentage against being outside of the top 200 is going to be the black sharpie on their bracket.
The Baylor Bears showed us the team we all enjoyed before their covid pause. The three headed monster Jared Butler, Macio Teague and Davion Mitchell will be tough for Villanova to cover. Also there is this guy that had his coming out party in the round of 32, his name is Mathew Mayer. Mayer had 17 points against Wisconsin, at 6-9, shooting 45 percent from three, he is showing the world why he is a darkhorse NBA prospect. Also his hair is awesome. It’s intimidating.
Nova had some nice performances against Winthrop and North Texas, but let’s be real here Winthrop and North Texas were double digit seeds for a reason. Baylor has too much speed and will pressure the ball and cause turnovers. With no Gillispie I can’t see Villanova controlling anything in this one.
Pick: Baylor Bears -6.5
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles vs. Arkansas Razorbacks -11.5, 159
Cinderella stories are great, but stories have endings. This ending may come on Saturday but damn it should be pretty entertaining. The Golden Eagles can bring it on the offensive end, they are one of the fastests teams in the country ranking 52 in tempo, they are 12th in 3pt percentage and 80th in offensive efficiency.
These two teams have met before and they were able to combine for 162 points, that was with a sluggish start from Arkansas. Both of these teams want to play fast, this one will be uptempo and efficient on the offensive end. Two NBA prospects in Moses Moody and Max Abmas will match up in a game that will be fun to watch. This one is going to be closer than most think. The Razorbacks have gotten off to a few slow starts so far in the tournament, if they do that again against the Golden Eagles they can find it tough to come back due to the firepower they will have against them.
There will be points. After the sluggish affair we will see between Loyola and Oregon State. We will need this.
Pick: Over 159, Oral Roberts +11.5
Syracuse Orange vs. Houston Cougars -6, 140
The Houston Cougars slipped by Rutgers while Syracuse did what Syracuse does, win in March. The Cougars could not have gotten a better matchup, they are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, averaging an offensive rebound 39% of the time. The zone defense is susceptible to the offensive rebound.
The Syracuse Orange have gotten hot at the right time. The coach’s kid, Buddy Boeheim has led the way averaging 26 ppg over the last six games. He has had help from Illinois transfer Alan Griffin who is averaging 13 ppg and Quincy Guerrier averaging 13.9.
Their hot shooting has created an illusion that they have a chance to move on to the elite 8. Their history and their zone gimmick will be exposed by a Houston team that specializes in shooting down opposing shooters. The Cougars are the best in college basketball against opposing team shooting percentages. The defense and rebounding that Houston brings to the table is going to overcome an overrated Orange team.
Pick: Houston Cougars -6
Florida State Seminoles vs Michigan Wolverines -3, 144
The Seminoles and the Wolverines are seem to be the only teams that got the memo of how brackets are supposed to play out. Both have played to their expectations, Michigan even doing it without their star Isaiah Livers. The Wolverines will need to slow the pace to and work inside Hunter Dickinson on offense while pressuring the Seminoles ball handlers on defense.
Florida State has one big weakness, they can be loose with the ball ranking 251st in the nation in turnover percentage. Michigan’s defense is not one that causes a lot of turnovers, they thrive more on playing man to many and have Dickinson inside to be their to clean up any messes.
With Isiah Livers I would be all over Michigan covering this spread, without him I can’t see how the Wolverines consistently score against a very good Florida State defensive unit. The Seminoles have more options on offense and should get this win.
Pick: Florida State ML, Under 144
Creighton Bluejays vs Gonzaga Bulldogs -13, 158
The Bluejays got a herculaneum effort from their star Marcus Zagarowski in their win over Ohio in the round of 32. Creighton controlled the game from start to finish, something that they would like to do against the juggernaut Gonzaga Bulldogs. The problem for Creighton will face is that Gonzaga has the ability to play at any tempo. They can slow you down by feeding Drew Timme in the post or speed you up by letting Jalen Suggs run the break, and of course there is Cory Kispert to deal with. The Zags are second in the nation in scoring and first in the nation in field goal percentage.
Creighton has problems with teams that can score in the paint. Go watch their two losses to Georgetown this season and you can see they have no answer for interior scoring. Drew Timme is going to force a double team which will leave one of the litany of talented scorers with no coverage for easy buckets. Creighton will keep in close early, but their defense in the paint and struggles at the free throw line will allow the nation’s only undefeated team to stay that way and cover the number.
Pick: Gonzaga -13
Oregon Ducks vs USC Trojans -2.5, 139.5
This game seems familiar. We have seen it play out a few times over the years. This season they met one time and it was a buttkicking by the USC Trojans 72-58. The usual suspect was not the lead contributor, Evan Mobley played a subpar game by his standards, scoring just 11 points. The Trojans were led by guards Tahj Eddy (24pts) and Drew Peterson (15 points, 11 rebounds). They will need similar contributions in order to take down an Oregon team that flashed some of its potential explosiveness against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second round.
The Ducks have the talent to compete with a skilled USC team that showed some of their dominance in a route of Kansas. Chris Duarte is a stud that should be on NBA radar as the draft approaches, his shot making ability will have to be on par as USC has a clear advantage in the paint. The USC defense has to control the pace. Iowa allowed Oregon to move quickly and not allow the defense to get set. USC has to control the glass, if they do they control this game.
Pick: USC -2.5
UCLA Bruins vs. Alabama Crimson Tide – 6, 145.5
If this game was going on two weeks ago the Crimson Tide would be close to a double digit favorite against the Bruins. The Pac12 convinced bookmakers that they are to be taken seriously with four teams competing in the sweet sixteen. The Bruins thrive on controlling the pace and making it a grind. They rarely turn the ball over and have made the most of their offensive possessions in their three games so far in the tournament.
The Crimson Tide will look to impose their will and highlight their elite athletes. John Petty, Jordan Shackelford, Herb Jones, Javon Quinerly can all take over a game. Their weapons were on full display in their domination of the Maryland Terrapins. Bama put up 96 points against a defense that was only giving up 65 points per game. They don’t just do it on offense, they can disrupt the flow of the game on the defensive end.
Pick: Alabama -6, Under 145.5