USC vs. Gonzaga Elite 8 Betting Picks, Odds: The Wager to Make for This NCAA Tournament Matchup
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Timme.
- The USC Trojans. The Gonzaga Bulldogs. A Final Four spot on the line.
- The Mobley brothers will take on the Gonzaga trio of Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs in an Elite 8 matchup on Tuesday.
- Mike Randle breaks down the game and makes his pick for the game below.
USC vs. Gonzaga Odds
It’s only fitting that the final NCAA Tournament battle in the West Region would feature the top two teams from the West Coast. No. 1 Gonzaga looks to continue its perfect season against uber-athletic No. 6 seed USC.
Gonzaga has steamrolled their opponents, defeating No. 16 Norfolk State, No. 8 Oklahoma, and No. 5 Creighton by an average of 25.6 points per game.
USC has been equally impressive, defeating No. 11 Drake, No. 3 Kansas, and No. 7 Oregon by an average of 21.3 points per game.
Vegas has made the undefeated Zags a substantial nine-point favorite. Will the Bulldogs cover their fourth consecutive game en route to the Final Four, or will an underrated Trojans team give Gonzaga its biggest challenge this season?
USC has been a solid metric team on both ends of the floor and is playing its best basketball of the season.
The Trojans have the fourth-best defensive efficiency, per KenPom, including the top 2-point interior defense in the country.
Their interior dominance is led by the superior play of 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley. The future NBA Draft lottery pick is averaging 16.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 3.1 BPG. Along with 6-foot-10 brother Isaiah Mobley (9.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG), they provide a distinct interior advantage on both ends of the floor.
In their Sweet 16 win over Pac-12 rival Oregon, the Trojans received superior production from guards Tahj Eaddy (13.7 PPG) and Isaiah White (7.7 PPG). Both players combined for 42 points including 7-of-11 (64%) from deep.
USC’s offense has been just as efficient as its defense except for one glaring weakness: free-throw shooting.
The Trojans rank 60th in 3-point accuracy (36.7%), 71st in 2-point percentage (52.5%) but are one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country, averaging 64.6% as a team. As we witnessed in the Alabama vs. UCLA game, that can play a huge part in whether or not a team can cover the spread or win outright.
The Trojans rank second in the nation in average height at 79.4 inches per player, trailing only Florida State. That defensive length was extremely disruptive against Oregon.
Gonzaga will need to counter the USC length with two weapons: a legitimate big man and its explosive fast break.
The Bulldogs should neutralize the Trojans’ interior advantage with 6-foot-10 sophomore Drew Timme (18.9 ppg, 7.2 RPG). Over the past two games, Timme has averaged 26 points and 8.5 rebounds with only four total fouls.
His efficiency on the interior will open up shots for one of the elite 3-point shooters in the country in forward Corey Kispert. The 6-foot-7 senior is among the nation’s leaders in 3-point accuracy, shooting a blistering 46.2% (84-of-182). He leads the team in scoring at 19 PPG while adding 4.9 RPG and an overall field goal percentage of 54.7%.
Kispert’s marksmanship is balanced by super-frosh Jalen Suggs (13.9 PPG, 4.4 APG) and junior Joel Ayayi (11.9 PPG, 38.5% 3-point).
Ayayi (7.9 RPG), Suggs (5.2 RPG), and Timme contribute directly to Gonzaga’s 18th-best defensive rebounding percentage, per KenPom. Ayayi posted Gonzaga’s first-ever triple-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists in a 116-88 win at Portland on Jan. 9.
Yet, Gonzaga’s greatest strength may be its depth.
Former Florida starting point guard Andrew Nembhard (9.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.5 APG) transitioned into the starting lineup in the past month and has been uber-efficient. Nembhard posted 17 points, four rebounds, and eight assists in the Zags’ 83-65 win over Creighton.
Former Southern Illinois star Aaron Cook (4.3 PPG, 1.1 SPG) and sophomore 6-foot-8 forward Anton Watson (7.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG) provide critical balance that keeps Gonzaga out of individual foul trouble issues.
This will be a strength-on-strength matchup with USC’s top 2-point defense facing Gonzaga’s top-ranked 2-point offense, per KenPom. That number is not just this season, however. It is significantly longer.
🙏 Thank you basketball gods. #1 2P% defense vs. #1 2P% offense…of all time. https://t.co/UnUae5twzu
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) March 29, 2021
Betting Analysis & Pick
This should be a fantastic Elite 8 matchup, but it’s one I expect the undefeated Bulldogs to win.
Gonzaga has found a way to defeat every elite team it has faced this year, regardless of its style of play. Few’s team earned impressive early-season wins over teams with substantial interior size such as Iowa (Luka Garza), West Virginia (Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe), and Virginia (Jay Huff).
USC has yet to face a team that possessed a strong defense, was explosive on the break, and also had a superior post player. That combination will eventually wear down the Trojans and get the Bulldogs to the Final Four.
The spread is high, but Gonzaga has only failed to cover a spread this large once in 29 games. That was against West Virginia on Dec. 2 when Suggs left with an injury.
I’m firmly aware of USC head coach Andy Enfield’s 10-0 ATS record in the NCAA Tournament, but all good things must come to an end.
I’m backing Gonzaga and laying the large number.
Pick: Gonzaga -9 (up to -9.5).