NCAA Scores 2021: Odds, Spread Predictions, Betting Advice for Sunday's Sweet 16March 28, 2021
The regular-season meeting between the USC Trojans and Oregon Ducks may not give us a good example of how Sunday's Sweet 16 showdown will play out.
Oregon got off to one of its worst starts of the season and could not recover against the Evan Mobley-led Trojans. As we saw in the second round, the Ducks are more than capable of starting hot from the field and remaining confident for 40 minutes.
Sunday's nightcap will guarantee the Pac-12 has two teams in the Elite Eight after the Oregon State Beavers advanced Saturday.
The SEC is the only other conference that can put multiple programs into Monday's and Tuesday's games. The Alabama Crimson Tide appear to have a pretty good shot to join the Arkansas Razorbacks. Nate Oats' team received praise all season for its offensive approach, but defensive play versus the UCLA Bruins could be what pushes the Tide through to the next round.
Sunday Sweet 16 Schedule
No. 1 Gonzaga (-13) 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: 145.5) (7:15 p.m. ET, TBS)
No. 6 USC (-2) vs. No. 7 Oregon (O/U: 138) (9:45 p.m. ET, TBS)
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Predictions against the spread in bold.
Bank on the Ducks to Have Strong Shooting Performance
Oregon's worst offensive performance of the season occurred on February 22 at the Galen Center.
USC rushed out to a 19-3 advantage, and not even a seven-point edge in second-half scoring could bring the Ducks within striking distance.
Oregon finished with a decent shooting performance against USC, as it went 41.2 percent from three-point range and 40.4 percent from the field. Since the Ducks offense was the main reason why those struggles happened, they should feel confident going that they can shoot better and compete with the Trojans on Sunday.
In Chris Duarte, LJ Figueroa and Will Richardson, the Ducks have a guard combination that can keep pace with whatever is thrown at them by Tahj Eaddy and Drew Peterson.
Dana Altman's team also has a physical answer to Mobley, which is something the Kansas Jayhawks and Drake Bulldogs lacked in the first two rounds. Eugene Omoruyi and Eric Williams Jr. should make things difficult for the likely top-five NBA draft pick, which could take Mobley out of a scoring rhythm.
Mobley recorded a double-double in his first two NCAA men's basketball tournament games, and he is one rebound shy in two Pac-12 tournament contests from having five straight 10-point, 10-rebound performances.
If the Ducks contain Mobley and keep the game close, they should have the advantage in the final few minutes through Altman. The 62-year-old guided Oregon to the Sweet 16 in his past four NCAA tournament appearances. Two of those occasions resulted in Elite Eight berths, with the Ducks making the Final Four in 2017.
Altman's game plan late in the contest may give Oregon the edge it needs to avenge one of its six regular-season losses.
Rely on Alabama's Defense for a Cover
Alabama is a dangerous national championship contender because it can beat teams in two ways.
The Crimson Tide can outshoot opponents at a high rate, like it did against the Maryland Terrapins, or it can win through its defense on a tough offensive night, as it did in its first-round victory over the Iona Gaels.
The key to both styles of play is Herbert Jones, who had 20 points against Iona and is considered one of the best defenders in the nation. Jones should have some familiarity with the play of Johnny Juzang, who transferred to UCLA from Kentucky.
The Alabama players may know Juzang's tendencies more from the information gathered from throughout the SEC. The guard did not play Alabama in his lone season with the Wildcats.
Alabama's defenders should be a step up from what UCLA faced in its first three games. The Michigan State Spartans and BYU Cougars were not known for their defensive capabilities, and the Abilene Christian Wildcats did not pack enough of an offensive punch to match UCLA's defensive strengths.
If Alabama contains Juzang, it could put away the Bruins before the final four minutes through its three-point shooting. In the second round, the Tide knocked down 16 three-point shots. They were also perfect from the free-throw line, which is significant because if they are not taking threes, they are driving to the hoop.
Shooting well again should see Alabama pull away by double digits and land a meeting with either the Michigan Wolverines or Florida State Seminoles.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.
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