Ohio State Buckeyes (25-8) at Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-4)
It finally happened. A sixteen seed beat a one seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. And not just any one seed, the number one overall seed. And not just any win, it was a blowout. The UMBC, that’s the University of Maryland Baltimore County, I had to google it too, Retrievers shocked the world last night. UMBC used a huge second half to absolutely obliterate the one seed Virginia Cavaliers.
When the dust settled, the Retrievers won 74-54 and completed what is the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history. And this wasn’t a typical NCAA tournament upset where the small league school was just not given enough credit and was probably seeded a couple of lines too high that got hot from deep and shot themselves to an upset.
This was a second-half domination by a team that lost double-digit games this season. There were no lucky shots, the Retrievers dominated and made all of their free throws down the stretch as Virginia desperately tried to get back in the game.
You know who was happy about this big upset? Wichita State. Who themselves got upset in a big way and are happy to have their names knocked off the front page of the NCAA coverage. It was another wild day of action, and at this point just about everyone’s bracket is busted. But today is when the real games start.
The first round is great, but the round of thirty-two is really were the action heats up as we find out which teams will advance to the Sweet 16 next weekend. Today I will be breaking down the matchup between the Bulldogs of Gonzaga and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs will look to advance to the Sweet 16 tonight when they face the Ohio State Buckeyes in Boise, Idaho. Gonzaga is looking to get back to Final Four after breaking through last season and playing on the third weekend before coming up just short in the national championship game. The Bulldogs have caught fire in the season’s second half and haven’t lost since December.
For Ohio State, they will look to avenge an earlier season loss to the Zags and advance with new head coach Chris Holtmann. The Bulldogs are -3-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 140.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:45 PM PST from Taco Bell Arena.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. They lost Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the NBA draft and big man Przemek Karnowski to graduation. 31 wins later and we now realize that Gonzaga doesn’t rebuild, they reload. That is truly the mark of an elite program, can you lose multiple players early in the draft and still win at a high rate? Duke, Kansas, Kentucky they all can. And now we know the Zags can too.
The Zags feature a ton of size that is very versatile. Big men Killian Tillie and Johnathan Williams can both score inside as well as stretch the floor and shoot from deep. Tilly shot 14-15 from beyond the arc in the WCC tournament, with Gonzaga blowing out each team along the way.
The one area of concern for Gonzaga is how bad they looked in the first round against UNC Greensboro. The Zags needed every one of those forty minutes to pull away for the win and were on upset alert all afternoon long.
However, struggling in the first round has been a hallmark of Mark Few’s in the NCAA tournament. Several times in recent history the Zags have struggled in the round of 64 only to go on and win more games in the tournament.
We saw this last year when South Dakota State kept it tight for much of the game. We also saw this in 2016 against Seton Hall, 2015 against North Dakota State, and 2013 against Southern. So, this is an established sticking point for the Zags, to struggle in round one, I wouldn’t be overly alarmed by their performance, this is a very good team.
The Ohio State Buckeyes looked like a team in transition this year as well. They brought in a new head coach, and they didn’t know where their production was going to come from. The Buckeyes started out the season a bit slow. They had non-conference losses to Gonzaga, Butler, Clemson, and North Carolina. Those are all good teams playing in the NCAA tournament, so there isn’t any shame there, but this seemed like a team that wasn’t going to be able to compete against the upper echelon squads this year.
Then Big 10 league play started, and the Buckeyes caught fire. Ohio State beat Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue in league play. The only team that seemingly had their number and the sole reason why the Buckeyes didn’t take the Big 10 regular title this season, was Penn State.
The Nittany Lions weren’t a great team, they failed to make the NCAA tournament, but managed to be a thorn in the side of the Buckeyes all year long as they beat them three times.
These two teams matched up at the PK80 tournament earlier this season, and the game wasn’t remotely close. Gonzaga dominated the game to the tune of a 27-point blowout victory. That was before this Buckeye team hit its stride, but you could argue the same for Gonzaga.
Both teams have transformed for the better in the season’s’ second half. But I just don’t know if enough has changed to convince me that these two teams that seemed completely mismatched earlier in the year are now basically even.
This line opened at Gonzaga -3-points, and I scratched my head. How could this number be so tight after the beating the Zags put on the Buckeyes on a neutral court earlier this season? Then the line started to move, first to 3.5 and then to 4 points. I started thinking ok that makes sense. But since then the number has moved back towards Ohio State. As it sits, the Zags are -3-point favorites.
Look, I know the NCAA tournament is completely different scenario than the regular season. But we have already seen this matchup, and it wasn’t close. The emotion of the tournament alone will likely keep the game much tighter than the first one, but -3 points seems like a huge bargain to me.
The first time they played was a neutral court game in Portland, Oregon. Basically, a home game for the Zags as it is so close to Spokane. This game will be played on a neutral floor in Boise, Idaho, even closer to Spokane. I expect a Zags heavy crowd and a win and cover for Gonzaga.
They likely won’t win by 27-points, but I can see this in the double-digit range. Maybe 76-65 Gonzaga with the win and cover, advancing to the Sweet 16.
Give me the Gonzaga Bulldogs -3-points tonight!