Sweet 16 2021: Full Updated Bracket and Odds for NCAA TournamentMarch 25, 2021
The Gonzaga Bulldogs barreled through their first two NCAA men's basketball tournament games with relative ease.
The No. 1 overall seed received a bit of a threat from the Oklahoma Sooners in the second round, but the Big 12 side never got to within seven points in the closing stages. Gonzaga is projected to cruise into the Elite Eight since it is the heaviest favorite in the Sweet 16 for its clash with the Creighton Bluejays.
Creighton righted the on-court wrongs from the Big East tournament to get to this point, but it does not match up well with the Zags.
Although the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers are not a top seed, they are playing like one in the Midwest Region. Porter Moser's side faces a red-hot Oregon State Beavers side to open the Sweet 16's eight-game slate. It may be the first team in three weeks to have the right answers to slow down the unit that reeled off five straight wins.
Sweet 16 Schedule and Odds
Saturday, March 27
No. 8 Loyola-Chicago (-6.5) vs. No. 12 Oregon State (Over/Under: 125.5) (2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 1 Baylor (-7.5) vs. No. 5 Villanova (O/U: 141) (5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 3 Arkansas (-11.5) vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts (O/U: 159) (7:25 p.m. ET, TBS)
No. 2 Houston (-6) vs. No. 11 Syracuse (O/U: 139.5) (9:55 p.m. ET, TBS)
Sunday, March 28
No. 1 Gonzaga (-13.5) vs. No. 5 Creighton (O/U: 158) (2:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 1 Michigan (-2.5) vs. No. 4 Florida State (O/U: 143.5) (5 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 2 Alabama (-6.5) vs. No. 11 UCLA (O/U: 146) (7:15 p.m. ET, TBS)
No. 6 USC (-2) vs. No. 7 Oregon (O/U: 139) (9:45 p.m. ET, TBS)
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
Gonzaga (-13.5) vs. Creighton
Gonzaga is 2-0 against the spread in the men's NCAA tournament.
There is a good chance the Zags push that record to 3-0 if they take advantage of the mismatches they have against their Big East foe.
Creighton has five players that average more than 10 points per game, but that can be neutralized by Gonzaga's top stars.
Gonzaga rebounds better than the Bluejays, averaging 37.9 boards per game in comparison to 36.1 from its opponent.
In Drew Timme, the Bulldogs also have the most imposing paint presence on the two rosters. He is coming off 30 points and 13 rebounds versus Oklahoma.
In the 87-71 win, Gonzaga was more efficient from three-point range and made 14 more trips to the free-throw line. By earning more free-throw attempts and controlling the paint, Gonzaga absorbed a 27-point performance from Austin Reaves.
Gonzaga could follow a similar strategy to eliminate Creighton if Marcus Zegarowski gets hot. He had 20 points and knocked down four three-pointers against the Ohio Bobcats.
While Zegarowski found his shooting legs Sunday, Mitch Ballock did not. Ballock has a single 10-point outing in his past six appearances. Ballock's poor performances are concerning since he shoots 39.5 percent from three-point range and could be a vital asset to springing an upset.
Since Gonzaga displayed an ability to fend off most runs from opponents and it has a mismatch down low, it should win with ease and face a tougher test in the Elite Eight against either the USC Trojans or Oregon Ducks.
Loyola-Chicago (-6.5) vs. Oregon State
The hottest offense in the tournament takes on the toughest defense in the Sweet 16 opener.
Oregon State scored a combined 150 points to knock out the Tennessee Volunteers and Oklahoma State Cowboys. Loyola-Chicago conceded 118 combined points to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Illinois Fighting Illini.
Loyola's defense has been the more consistent of the two units this season, which should give it the edge on Saturday. The Ramblers only allowed six of their 28 opponents to eclipse the 60-point mark. Illinois did not get there in the second round, as Cameron Krutwig controlled his paint matchup with Kofi Cockburn.
Krutwig is the main attraction of the Loyola team because he is a powerful big man and carries Final Four experience from three years ago. Loyola's guards do not get as much credit as the big man, but they are arguably more important because of how they defend the three-point line.
Lucas Williamson, Braden Norris and Keith Clemons frustrated Ayo Dosunmu and the Illinois guards, as the Illini shot 4-of-14 from three-point range.
Oregon State hit 16 three-point shots in the first two rounds, so if the Ramblers contain that production, they should open up a sizable advantage. If that occurs, Krutwig could break open the game in his matchup with Warith Alatishe, who has not scored 10 points in his last three games.
If Krutwig forces Alatishe into foul trouble, like Oklahoma State did, Loyola can run its offense through the big man for easy baskets down low.
A Loyola victory would put a dent into the Pac-12's dominance and would also move it to within one win of a second Final Four berth in four years, which would be one of the more improbable feats of the past decade.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.
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