Perfection is rarely attained, but Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs are sitting just three wins away from it as they reach an Elite Eight matchup in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament against the USC Trojans.
USC Trojans vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 – 7:15 PM ET at Lucas Oil Stadium
Just as the case has been all season, the NCAAB lines favor Gonzaga in the contest, and why not? The Bulldogs were the only team to arrive in Indianapolis with an unbeaten record, more than enough for them to earn the top overall seed, and have made things almost look too easy in getting to the Elite Eight. Southern Cal has also had a relatively comfortable cruise into the clash, and the 6th-seeded Trojans are looking to pull off the program’s biggest upset in recent memory.
Trojans Have Covered 7 of Last 9 NCAA Tourney Tilts
By the time this West Region Championship tips off Tuesday evening on TBS, March Madness will be down to just six teams remaining. Either the Bulldogs and Trojans will head home after this one, and according to the numbers at BookMaker (visit our BookMaker Review), that will be USC with Gonzaga favored by nine. The scoreboard target is running in the 153.5-154 range.
Andy Enfield’s club quietly sneaked into the tourney as the No. 23 team in both polls, and surprised most folks by playing on after the first two rounds. This part of the West Region bracket was supposed to belong to either Iowa or Kansas, but the Trojans demolished the Jayhawks in the second round after dispatching Drake with relative ease in the first. Despite being seeded lower than blueblood Kansas, the Trojans were slight favorites before administering a 34-point whipping on the No. 3 seed Jayhawks.
Southern Cal found a familiar foe waiting in the Sweet 16 round this past Sunday when No. 7 seed Oregon was the opponent in a duel of Pac-12 rivals. Just as the case was against Kansas, a strong first half propelled the Trojans to the 82-68 final, their second win this season over the Ducks. Defense and accurate 3-point shooting delivered the decision, USC holding Oregon to under 38% from the field while canning 10-of-17 from beyond the arc.
Zags 8-2 ATS on Neutral Courts this Season
Just in case someone has been living under a rock the past four months or so, this stat will give them an idea of just how dominant the Bulldogs have been: Tuesday marks the first time since the day after Christmas that online sportsbooks haven’t favored Gonzaga by at least 11 points. That Boxing Day battle was on a neutral court against then-No. 16 Virginia, and the Bulldogs ended up scoring 98 against a Cavaliers team generally regarded as having one of the better defenses in college hoops.
Gonzaga enjoyed another 98-point output to begin the Big Dance, handing No. 16 seed Norfolk State a 43-point beating. That was followed by an 87-71 win over No. 8 seed Oklahoma to just grab the cover on a -15.5 spread. Sunday’s 83-65 win in the Sweet 16 over Creighton made it three successive covers in the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs leading wire-to-wire, and Few pulling his starters late in the second half. Gonzaga hasn’t let anyone forget just how strong it is on the offensive end by shooting nearly 55% in the three tournament wins, and hitting close to 60% against a Creighton defense that led the Big East in field goal percentage.
Programs Colliding for Third Time
There aren’t many teams that haven’t ever lost to Gonzaga, but USC can make that claim. Of course, both of the previous two matchups took place about 30 years ago, or about seven years before Few arrived in Spokane. The Trojans scored 77 in each victory, which came during the 1991-92 and 1992-93 campaigns, while the Bulldogs tallied 60 points or less in both games. It’s safe to say USC won’t hold Gonzaga to 60 on Tuesday.
Considering that only one of Gonzaga’s 29 wins so far was by less than 10 points, that nine-point spread might seem an easy NCAAB pick, and maybe it is. The Mobley Brothers, Evan and Isaiah, should at least make it tougher for the Bulldogs in the paint, and Isaiah White is coming off a solid performance for USC against Oregon. In the end, I’m counting on Gonzaga’s usual suspects – Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs – to be too much for the Trojans to handle. It’s on to the Final Four for the Zags!
*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.