NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Odds & Picks: Our Best Bets for USC vs. Gonzaga & UCLA vs. Michigan (Tuesday, March 30)
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: The Michigan Wolverines and Florida State Seminoles.
The college basketball season is getting shorter with each passing day. After tonight’s games, we will only have three games left in the season: two Final Four matchups on Saturday and the national championship on April 5.
But for now, let’s embrace what we have. We’ll soon see (1) Gonzaga vs. (6) USC at 7:15 p.m. ET followed by (1) Michigan vs. (11) UCLA with spots in the Final Four on the line.
Our staff broke down both games and shared betting picks for each. Check out each individual pick, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to any game.
College Basketball Odds & Picks
Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.
#1 Gonzaga vs. #6 USC
USC is one of the tallest teams in the country, and it has one the best big men in the nation in the form of five-star freshman Evan Mobley. Mobley, along with brother Isaiah, have been dominating the NCAA Tournament so far, combining for 27.3 points per game.
USC has dominated its opponents down low all season, shooting over 52% from inside the arc and over 61% on shot attempts at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.
However, the reason the Trojans beat Oregon is because they went 10-of-17 from behind the arc. They’ll need a similar performance against Gonzaga because the Bulldogs boast one of the best interior defenses in college basketball, allowing only 46.7% from 2-point range.
What will be fascinating in this matchup is Drew Timme and Corey Kispert versus the Mobley brothers. In my opinion, whoever wins that battle is most likely going to win this game.
Nobody has figured out how to stop Gonzaga’s offense yet this year, but USC’s 2-3 zone defense might be the answer.
Given the Trojans’ height, they don’t allow anyone to consistently score inside, as they are the No. 1 defense in college basketball in 2-point percentage allowed; however, they’ll be going up against the No. 1 offense at scoring from inside the arc, as Gonzaga averages a blistering 63.5% from 2-point range.
Comparative to the NCAA average, Gonzaga doesn’t attempt a lot of 3-pointers (33.2% of field goal attempts, per KenPom). However, that is the way to beat USC’s zone, so if the Bulldogs can’t hit a high percentage of 3-point shots, USC may have a chance at pulling off the upset.
I only have Gonzaga projected as a -5.99 favorite, so I think there’s some value on the Trojans here at +8.5.
#1 Gonzaga vs. #6 USC
It can be easy to get swept up in Gonzaga’s offensive performances this year. After all, the Zags have posted the highest offensive efficiency ranking since the metric was first measured in 1997.
And if that doesn’t impress you, there’s also the fact that they have the top 2-point percentage offense of all time. Yet, despite their seemingly unstoppable offense, totals have essentially been coin flips this season for games involving the Bulldogs (15-14 in favor of over).
USC counters Gonzaga’s inside-the-arc dominance with excellent frontcourt height and the best 2-point percentage defense of all-time. That’s not a typo; we are in store for a once in a generation “game within a game” here in the Elite Eight.
If you toss the Trojans’ double OT game against Utah on March 11 out the window, USC has held its last six opponents to just 58.6 PPG. Gonzaga checks in at seventh in KenPom’s defensive ratings and is on a solid defensive run of its own, holding opponents to 65 points per game across its last six.
Drew Timme and Corey Kispert have poured in 80 points in the Zags’ wins over Oklahoma and Creighton.
Despite those performances, the Bulldogs’ game against Oklahoma just edged past the closing total and fell 12 points short of the total against Creighton. I see the sledding being considerably harder against the Mobley brothers and USC’s 2-3 zone, which makes this under the best play on the board for Tuesday night.
Unless Gonzaga pivots and becomes an elite 3-point shooting team overnight, I don’t foresee this game surpassing 150.
#1 Gonzaga vs. #6 USC
Time to get the popcorn ready for the No. 1 ranked 2-point offense vs. the No. 1 ranked 2-point defense, per KenPom, tonight in the Elite Eight.
Gonzaga is averaging an astonishing 126.5 points per every 100 possessions this season and has hit an incredible 63.9% of its 2-point field goals this season. That will be tested tonight when it matches up against a USC defense that has allowed teams to convert on just 41.5% of 2-point attempts.
The battle inside the paint is going to be one of the best we will see all season between the Mobley brothers — Evan and Isaiah — matching up with Drew Timme and Corey Kispert.
USC plays with the 234th-ranked adjusted tempo in college basketball this year. In the Trojans’ seven matchups this season against teams ranked in the top 20 according to KenPom, there was an average of 129.7 points scored, and none of the games reached the 150s.
In their three tournament games this year, the Trojan defense has allowed only 58.3 points per game. Gonzaga is obviously a different beast than teams they’ve faced this tournament, but the USC zone with the Mobley brothers inside makes it difficult to get any easy buckets and helps slow down the pace.
I am playing the under of 153.5 tonight in a game that I believe will be played in the 140s.
#1 Michigan vs. #11 UCLA
By Mike Randle
While Michigan’s offense has been operating at an elite level without Isaiah Livers, I expect Mick Cronin’s team to again control pace.
UCLA limited Alabama to just 65 points in regulation, even as the 11th-fastest team in tempo, per KenPom. The Bruins are 337th in tempo, and in a game of this magnitude, teams tend to play slower than normal.
With guards like Jaime Jaquez Jr. and point guard Tyger Campbell combining for 2.1 steals per game, the Bruins rely on their perimeter defense to limit opposing guards.
They stifled the Alabama perimeter game, holding the Crimson Tide to just 25% (7-of-28) from 3-point range while holding SEC Player of the Year Herb Jones to just eight total points. The Bruins also held Alabama leading-scorer Jaden Shackelford (14 PPG) to just four points with five turnovers.
Michigan can certainly score, but it does not force tempo as much as you would expect. It ranks 247th in pace and also ranks in the top 10 in defensive efficiency. The Wolverines rank third-best in limiting opponents from 2-point range, allowing just 42.6% on the interior.
I project a game that follows a similar script to the Wolverines’ battles with defensive-minded Michigan State and Ohio State teams.
I’m going with the recent trend and betting the under in another close NCAA Tournament battle. I would take this down to 135 points total.