The Oklahoma Sooners will throw down with the top team in the nation when they take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second round of the Big Dance. Let’s analyze this matchup and keep cashing those tickets in our college basketball picks!
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Monday, March 22, 2021 – 2:40 PM ET at Hinkle Fieldhouse
Oklahoma struggled down the stretch, dropping five of their last six games before entering as the No. 8 seed in the West Region. The Sooners bowed, 69-62, to Kansas in the Big 12 quarterfinals before taking on Missouri in the opening round of the national tournament. In that game, the team rallied from a 20-point deficit at the half, but it was a hole too big to dig out of, and any hope for a conference championship was dashed.
However, Oklahoma was prepared on Saturday when they faced No. 9 Missouri in the first round of the Big Dance. It didn’t come easy, but when they found themselves out of timeouts down the stretch, Elijah Harkless knew what his coach would want him to do with a three-point lead and only seconds remaining – foul. It was the right move as Missouri hit one of two at the charity stripe, paving the way to a 72-68 Oklahoma victory.
"It's one thing to kind of plan on doing it, it's another thing to make the play that E.J. did, and actually get the foul," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "Elijah made a very good, heads-up play right there."
Senior guard, Austin Reaves, led all scorers with 23 points, and Oklahoma advanced to the second round for the fourth time over the last six seasons. "You've got to be composed," Reaves said. "Late in the year, we dropped some of those (close) games. I feel like it was similar tonight, but we came out on the better end of the stick this time."
Zags Remain Perfect
Even Joe Q. Public would have had a difficult time swallowing hard and laying the heavy lumber on Gonzaga in their opening round game against No. 16 Norfolk State. Of course, there was no question which team would prevail in the biggest mismatch on the board but whether the Bulldogs could cover the 33 ½ point impost was another matter entirely.
But the chalk-eaters wound up making money because the Zags obliterated their overmatched foes from the lightly regarded Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in a 98-55 blowout. Senior forward, Corey Kispert, led all scorers with 23 points. Meanwhile, sophomore Anton Watson chipped in with 17 off the bench, shooting a perfect 7-of-7 from the field.
Gonzaga is the only undefeated team in the nation but according to head coach, Mark Few, the team is focused on only one thing. "We just want to win this tournament. That's all we want to do is just win this tournament. Obviously, if we win the tournament, we end up undefeated, but I've never heard any of the guys talk about it. The staff doesn't talk about it. I don't talk about it. Gosh, man, we just want to win this thing."
Wanna Make a Bet?
The college basketball odds on the favorite will not make it easy to bet on them. As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks are all in lockstep, dealing the Zags as 14 ½ point neutral-site favorites. It’s tough to make an argument against them as they are undefeated and own the No. 1 offense in the league, averaging a whopping 87.4 points per game, due primarily to their seamless ability to spread the ball and hit the open man.
Gonzaga is also tough on the glass and should be able to have their way against Oklahoma not only inside but also on the perimeter. And on top of it all, the Sooners will be without their second-leading scorer, sophomore guard De'Vion Harmon, due to COVID-19 protocols. I’m not sure how to make a case for Oklahoma here other than to close our eyes, cross our fingers, and hope they can hang within 15 points of the juggernaut they will be facing on Monday.
But I can’t do that because the Sooners had a tough game against Missouri and could be still catching their collective breath when they face the Bulldogs. Oklahoma has also been a money-burner down the stretch, failing to cover the number in seven of their last eight contests. Let’s look for another big blowout by the Zags and lay the lumber with the rest of the squares.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.