Southern California forward Evan Mobley (4) grabs a rebound over Arizona forward Ira Lee (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
- The #6-seed USC Trojans routed Pac-12 rival #7 Oregon in the Sweet 16 on Sunday to advance to the program’s first Elite 8 appearance since 2001
- Andy Enfield’s team gets #1-overall seed Gonzaga next as their reward, but their odds to win the title still improved from +2700 to +1200
- The Zags are remain the overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium April 5 at (odds)
The #7-seed Oregon Ducks were ahead of the #6-seed USC Trojans 17-16 roughly midway through the first half of Sunday’s Sweet 16 all-Pac-12 tilt. But after Isaiah Mobley’s three-pointer gave SC the lead at the 10:43 mark, it was all Trojans from that point on.
Andy Enfield’s team shot a blistering 58.5% for the game on the way to an 82-68 victory and a trip to the program’s first Elite 8 appearance in 20 years. Now, the well-rounded Trojans — who feature underclassmen primed for the next level, along with more experienced players who can get hot quickly — face tourney #1-overall seed Gonzaga.
USC enters the Elite 8 contest as underdogs, but might match up with the Zags as good as any team left in Indy. Mark Few’s group is still the favorite to win it all in the NCAA Tournament title odds. But following the Trojans’ victory Sunday, their odds have shortened dramatically to be the last team standing April 5.
March Madness Championship Odds
|Team||Odds at DraftKings|
Odds updated March 28th, 2021.
Tahj Eaddy with the euro 👀
USC up big at the half pic.twitter.com/LSoe32VZAK
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 29, 2021
Eaddy Does It (Again)
Senior Tahj Eaddy was a force in the first half as Southern California pulled away from Oregon. He was the star of the show on Feb. 22, when SC beat the Ducks 72-58 — draining 6-of-11 three-point attempts on his way to a game-high 24 points — in the teams’ only head-to-head game coming into Sunday.
The 6-foot-2 guard from West Haven did it again in March Madness, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Fellow senior Isaiah White had a team-high 22 (on an even better 8-of-10 night from the field) as the Trojans got hot in the first half and stayed hot in the second 20 minutes, frustrating the Ducks with their length and efficiency.
Isaiah Mobley missed that game last month, but was back on the court for Enfield’s team, Sunday. The sophomore put up 13 and grabbed six boards. With the Trojans now at full strength and if they continue to play like they did Sunday, they can beat anybody — including the Zags.
Length Is a Gift
While beating Drake, Kansas, and Oregon in its first three games, USC has managed to hold all three opponents to a ridiculous 32.2% field-goal percentage, combined. Their historically good defense has a certain college basketball stats maven excited for Tuesday’s game.
🙏 Thank you basketball gods. #1 2P% defense vs. #1 2P% offense…of all time. https://t.co/UnUae5twzu
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) March 29, 2021
It’s fair to say Gonzaga is a strong candidate to join the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers as the only undefeated national champions in NCAA history. It’s also fair to say Few’s crew has scarcely been challenged like it will be in the Elite 8.
BYU led Gonzaga 53-41 at the half of the WCC Tournament title game, holding First-Team All-American Corey Kispert to only three points in the first half before the Zags woke up in the second frame to win 88-78.
West Virginia — in only GU’s third game of the season back on Dec. 3 — was the only opponent to finish within single-digits this season, eventually falling 87-82. Jalen Suggs was held to just four points in that one.
Now, USC will try to topple the game’s Goliath with exceedingly shortened odds due to its performances so far.
Anything Is Possible
There’s a reason SC has the shortest odds — at +1200 — of any of the underdogs in the Elite 8. Knock out the tourney chalk, and anything is possible. And with double-digit wins over the Bulldogs, Jayhawks, and Ducks, the Trojans have looked beyond impressive.
EVAN MOBLEY MY GOODNESS 😰@USC_Hoops #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/77qeSCFDgQ
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 29, 2021
This is a team that features one of the likely top-three picks in the upcoming NBA Draft in Mobley, along with that noted depth and defense.
But the Zags have been impressive, too. Gonzaga has beaten Norfolk State, Oklahoma and Creighton by margins of 43, 16 and 18 points. Drew Timme and his Fu Manchu ‘stache has achieved cult status for good reason. The sophomore from Texas is playing as big as the Lone Star State, putting up an average of 26 points over the last two outings. Plus, the Zags have the depth to match the Trojans’.
While they may be worth a longshot wager at +1200, I’m still fading the Men of Troy Tuesday.
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Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.