Just two games remain before the Final Four, which means its time to make our Elite Eight picks for Tuesday night. BetRivers.com is proud to provide a wide variety of Elite Eight odds, teasers, props and NCAA Tournament futures.
No. 1 Baylor defeated No. 3 Arkansas in the South Regional Final and No. 2 Houston defeated No. 12 Oregon State in the Midwest Regional Final to punch the first two tickets to the Final Four. On Tuesday night, No. 1 Gonzaga faces off against No. 6 USC in the West Regional Final and No. 1 Michigan faces No 11 UCLA in the East Regional Final. Gonzaga is 3-0 ATS in their first three 2021 NCAA Tournament games, and is favored to beat USC by the fewest points of any Gonzaga spread this season. That makes deciding our Elite Eight picks all the more interesting.
Longtime national college basketball writer Rob Dauster, the co-founder of The Field of 68 Network, previews his Elite Eight picks for Tuesday night and breaks down the NCAA Tournament bets worth a wager.
MARCH MYSTERY MADNESS: Earn $8 for every $80 you wager on the Elite Eight!
BOOSTED BETS: Elite Eight Specials
- Gonzaga & Michigan both in by 10+ points. Was +425. Now +500
- UCLA to be leading at halftime vs. Michigan. Was +190. Now +220
ELITE EIGHT PICKS: TUESDAY, MARCH 30
#1 GONZAGA BULLDOGS (29-0) vs. #6 USC TROJANS (25-7), 7:17 p.m. ET
MONEYLINE: Gonzaga -435 ML, USC +325 ML
SPREAD: Gonzaga -8.5
OVER/UNDER: 153 points
Click here for the full list of Gonzaga-USC Elite Eight odds.
We get the Elite Eight picks started with an absolutely fascinating matchup.
And the more I think about it, the more I find myself believing that, yes, USC has a very real chance of being the one team that can end Gonzaga’s bid for a perfect season.
What USC does defensively is simple in the way that what Syracuse does defensively is simple. They play a 2-3 that is loaded with length and athleticism. Their wings and guards are able to extend and really focus on chasing opponents off of the three-point line because they know that there is no one in college basketball that is capable of defending the lane the way that Evan Mobley is capable of defending the lane. There is a reason why USC is leading the nation is two-point percentage defense.
What this, in turn, does is allow them to play with a ton of size on the offensive end of the floor without getting exposed by small-ball mismatches. Isaiah Mobley is not a great perimeter defender if he has to chase Corey Kispert around on the perimeter, but he is really effective if all he has to do is chase Kispert off of the three-point line. In turn, it means that he is able to play against a guard at the other end of the court, where he is a matchup problem. He can post bigger defenders. He can pull smaller defenders away from the basket. He’s a very real, very dangerous weapon, and when combined with the myriad shot makers and his younger brother, there’s a reason USC has been on this run of late.
Now, here’s the thing: Gonzaga is built to be able to play against a zone. Not only are they elite shooting around the basket — they set a record for the highest two-point field goal percentage in the history of KenPom’s database this season — but they are loaded with good passers. Jalen Suggs is an elite passer. Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard are both point guards by trade that have averaged four assists in a college season. Corey Kispert and Drew Timme are both above-average passers for their position. Combine that with the fact that Gonzaga does have shooters, and I do expect them to get quite a few good looks from three.
So for my money, that’s what this game is going to come down to. Can Gonzaga make their open shots? If they do, does that force USC to come out of their zone? Do they have to go small? Or will Gonzaga have to go to their lineups with Watson and Timme to deal with USC’s size inside?
If it’s the latter, I think USC will win.
And even if it’s the former, I have a hard time seeing Gonzaga run this group out of the gym.
So I’ll be on the Trojans here.
#1 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (23-4) vs. #11 UCLA BRUINS (21-9), 9:57 p.m. ET)
MONEYLINE: Michigan -295 ML, UCLA +230 ML
SPREAD: Michigan -6.5
OVER/UNDER: 136 points
Click here for the full list of Michigan vs. UCLA Elite Eight Odds.
What I keep coming back to here for my second Elite Eight pick is just how smart Juwan Howard’s game-plan was against Florida State. What they did to counteract Florida State’s switching defense was to get a small on Hunter Dickinson, flash whoever was helping to the high-post, and then playing high-low. It was simple and it was brilliant.
And most importantly, it worked.
Howard found a way to take advantage of Michigan’s size. They had 18 baskets in the second half. Of those 18, 17 came in the paint, and 14 were dunks. UCLA is similarly undersized, and while I respect the hell out of the way that the Bruins have played in this tournament, at some point all of those tough jumpers they are surviving on are going to stop going down. This feels like it’s going to be the end of the road for UCLA, who needed some beneficial officiating and Alabama to shoot 11-for-25 from the line to be able to survive the Sweet 16.
Wolverines by 15.
ELITE EIGHT PICKS: MONDAY, MARCH 29
#2 HOUSTON COUGARS (27-3) vs. #12 OREGON STATE BEAVERS (20-12), 7:17 p.m. ET
MONEYLINE: Houston -335 ML, Oregon State +255 ML
SPREAD: Houston -7.5
OVER/UNDER: 128.5 points
Click here for the full list of Houston vs. Oregon State odds.
For my money, this cap is simple: Take Oregon State here. The Beavers have covered in 12 of their last 13 games and 16 of their last 19. They have won as the underdog in every game they have played in the postseason. This team is playing with more confidence than any team in America right now. Ethan Thompson is playing his way into the NBA Draft. I know how good Houston is. I know how tough they are, and I know the matchup problems they can cause Oregon State’s bigs.
But I don’t care.
I think the Beavers are here to compete.
That, however, is a lot of “I think”.
The reality is this: Both of these teams rank outside the top 300 in average possession length on the offensive end. Houston is one of the best defensive teams in the country. Oregon State plays a lot of zone, and a zone limited Houston to 62 points in the Sweet 16.
I expect there to be about 65 possessions in this game. Winning by eight points in a 65 possession game is going to be tough when the Ducks have a guy that can go get his own on any possession.
#1 BAYLOR BEARS (24-2) vs. #3 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (25-6), 9:57 p.m. ET
MONEYLINE: Baylor -400 ML, Arkansas +300 ML
SPREAD: Baylor -8
OVER/UNDER: 147.5 points
Click here for the full list of Baylor vs. Arkansas Odds.
On the surface, laying eight points against an Arkansas team that finished second in the SEC and has spent the majority of the season playing games that are closer than it seems like they should be would, in theory, be risky.
But I think that this is just about the best possible matchup for Baylor considering the way that they want to play.
I’ve made this point over and over again: The best five that Baylor can put on the floor is when they go small. We can debate which five, specifically, it is, but it’s the lineup where Mark Vital is the five and there are four perimeter players around him. The problem for Arkansas here is that this is exactly how they want to play. They have been at their best this entire season when they allow Justin Smith to play as a small-ball five, switching everything and letting him get a running start to go and get an offensive rebound around a bigger defender. This is exactly what Baylor wants to do.
The other problem is that Eric Musselman’s NBA background tends to takeover. He lets his guys rock. He finds a mismatch he can exploit, and he attacks it over, and over, and over again. Against Oral Roberts, that matchup was Jalen Tate posting up against Max Abmas. Villanova tried to do that against Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, and it did not go well for them. Baylor’s guards are too good defensively to be exploited.
This Arkansas run has been fun. Muss is utterly elite when it comes to in-game adjustments to find a way to make things work. But this matchup just does not seem like one where he is going to find answers.
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