Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert reacts to hitting a basket against Norfolk State during the first half of a men’s college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
- Gonzaga will bring a 33-game winning streak into a West Region’s Elite Eight game against USC at 7:15 pm ET on Tuesday
- The game features contrasting styles — Gonzaga’s top-rated offense against USC’s stingy defense
- Check out the odds, analysis, and betting predictions, below
Overall No. 1 seed Gonzaga (29-0) has won 33 straight games at it enters the West Region Elite Eight game against USC at 7:15 pm ET on Tuesday. The Bulldogs have won an NCAA Division I-record 26 straight games by double-digits.
USC (23-7) has won six of its last seven games and, like Gonzaga, has had no trouble in the NCAA Tournament, winning its three games by a total of 62 points after handling Pac-12 rival Oregon 82-68 in the Sweet Sixteen.
USC vs Gonzaga Odds
|Team||Moneyline at DraftKings||Spread||Total|
|USC Trojans||+325||+9 (-109)||155 (Ov-108)|
|Gonzaga Bulldogs||-435||-9 (-110)||155 (Un-113)|
Odds from DraftKings on March 29.
Gonzaga is attempting to become the first team to finish a season undefeated since Indiana won the 1976 national championship. Four have tried since — Indiana State (1979) lost in the title game, UNLV (1991) and Kentucky (2015) lost in the semifinals, and Wichita State (2014) lost in the second round.
USC has held its three NCAA Tournament opponents to 32.2% shooting from the field. Oregon shot 37.7% Sunday, the only one of the three Trojans’ opponents to go over 30%.
Gonzaga’s Flawless Offense
The Bulldogs put on another offensive clinic in an 83-65 victory over Creighton, a game in which they never trailed and led by as many as 27.
Gonzaga made 10 straight field goals midway through the second half, turning a 14-point lead into a 25-point cushion. The Zags shot 59.6% from the field, dipping under 60% only when they missed five of their last seven shots.
It’s been that way all season. The Bulldogs lead NCAA Division I in scoring 91.8 (points per game) and field goal percentage (55.1%) and are third in assists (18.6 per game).
Forwards Corey Kispert and Drew Timme and guard Joel Ayayi entered the Sweet 16 with the three highest effective field goal percentages of all remaining players in the tournament. Kispert and Timme were tied for 11th in NCAA Division I at 66.5% and Ayayi was 28th at 64.3%. Timme had 22 points against Creighton.
Kispert is on pace to become the second Power Six player in 10 years to enter the 50/40/90 club — shooting 50% from the field, 40% from three-point range, and 90% from the free-throw line. Michigan State’s Cassius Winston was the last to do it in 2017-18.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
USC’s Stifling Defense
USC is the second-tallest team in NCAA Division I according to KenPom, averaging a shade over 6’7 per man, and coach Andy Enfield has made great use of that size and skill on the defensive end.
The Trojans play an attacking matchup zone that comes out of a 3-2 front, with 6’8 forward Drew Peterson or 6’2 guard Tahj Eaddy usually harassing from the top. The Trojans challenge the perimeter, knowing that the Mobley brothers — 7’0 freshman Evan and 6’10 sophomore Isaiah — provide a solid back line.
USC held Drake to a 29.4% shooting in a 72-56 first-round victory and limited Kansas to 29.0% in an 85-51 second-round rout.
The Trojans counter Gonzaga’s gaudy offensive numbers with some impressive stats on the other end. USC is holding opponents to a 38.6%, fourth in Division I. They rank sixth in blocked shots at 5.25 per game, and Mobley is sixth at 3.0 blocks per game.
It is all but certain that either Evan Mobley or Gonzaga 6’4 guard Jalen Suggs will play his final college game Tuesday.
Both Mobley and Suggs are projected to be among the top-five picks in the 2021 NBA draft if they choose to leave school, and both have a calmness to their game that indicates a fit at the next level.
Mobley has two double-doubles (and was two rebounds short of a third) and eight blocked shots in the tournament. He has ceded the scoring load to brother Isaiah and guards Eaddy and 6’7 Isaiah White. White had a 22 points and made four three-pointers against Oregon.
Suggs had 16 points against Oklahoma but otherwise has kept a lower profile in the tournament. He was needed for only 16 minutes in a lopsided first-round victory over Norfolk State (98-55).
Nembhard Fills a Role
Gonzaga junior 6’5 guard Andrew Nembhard had a complete game against Creighton with 17 points, eight assists, and four rebounds.
Since entering the starting lineup for good for a road game against BYU on Feb. 8 (except for Gonzaga’s senior day), Nembhard is averaging 10.0 points, and 4.0 assists in 10 games.
Nembhard’s presence gives the Bulldogs’ yet another willing passer in an offense that prides itself on sharing the ball, and he has shot 54.2% from the field in that stretch. He was 7-of-9 from the field with three three-pointers against Creighton.
By the Numbers
Gonzaga has covered all three of its NCAA Tournament games after a slight lull at the end of the regular season, when it was 1-3 ATS. The Bulldogs have been under the total in two of three tournament games after going over in seven of their previous eight.
USC has covered all three of its tournament games after failing to cover five of its last six in the regular season.
The Bulldogs have so many weapons and are so selfless on offense that it is difficult to imagine they will not find open shots even against USC’s stout defense. But they have never faced a team with the interior presence of the Mobley brothers, and only once since 2011 (Villanova in 2018) has the best offensive won the title.
The Pac-12 is 12-2 straight up and ATS in the tournament, so taking the points is the way to go.
The pick: USC +9 (-109)
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Jack has covered college and professional sports for various Arizona media outlets and has written for the AP, USA Today and Baseball America, among others. He staffed the 2015-17 World Series and has staffed four Super Bowls.