|8.5 USC (-108) @ Pointsbet|
8* Take USC (#657)
Every team gets tested on their way to a Final Four, even when that team is the favorite. This is not a tournament with much history of teams rolling through every opponent on their way to cutting down the nets. Among the teams still standing, Houston barely escaped past Rutgers, Baylor was challenged by Villanova; a game they trailed by margin at halftime. UCLA needed a miracle shot to get out of the ‘play-in’ game, Michigan was in a real battle with LSU. I think you get my point.
Gonzaga has won their first three games in the Big Dance by 18, 16 and 43 points; in control by halftime all three times. There’s no question that the Zags are elite; a legit title favorite – this isn’t a bet calling the Zags a fraud, or anything close. But USC is good – really good – and they’re capable of giving Gonzaga a test.
The Trojans, like the PAC-12 in general, didn’t shine during non-conference play – they lost an early ‘step-up’ game against UConn, arguably their toughest test, then had a handful of games cancelled due to COVID issues. The Trojans also slumped down the stretch, losing three out of four in late February; twice as favorites.
But the talent level has always been there for USC. Evan Mobley is drawing ‘Anthony Davis’ comparisons, projected as high as the #2 overall pick in the draft. His kid brother Isaiah has an NBA future as well. I trust Andy Enfield’s four guard rotation – Tahj Eaddy, Drew Peterson, Isaiah White and Ethan Anderson – even against the Zags deep backcourt. Plain and simple – this is a Trojans team capable of stepping up in class and competing, just as they’ve done in PAC-12 play all year.
Nothing against Oklahoma, Creighton or Norfolk State – the teams the Zags have beaten in this tournament -- but not of those teams come close to matching USC’s talent level. BYU was Gonzaga’s toughest test in the WCC; USC beat BYU by 26 wen they met at the Mohegan Sun Classic in December. All of Gonzaga’s power rating boosting early season non-conference wins – Kansas, Auburn, West Virginia, Virginia and Iowa – have all been somewhat devalued here in the Big Dance – none of those teams turned out to be as good as advertised in March. Expect a test for the Zags; a battle, not a blowout. Take USC.
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