The NCAA tournament has reached its round of 32. Will surprises or straightforward results mark the journey to the Sweet 16 for various college basketball brand names?
California Golden Bears vs. Syracuse Orange
Odds: Syracuse -7
California won its round of 64 game on Thursday against UNLV, but it has to be said that the Golden Bears were not very convincing at all. Cal didn’t hit a jump shot in the final 12 minutes of regulation and only one in the final 14. The Bears missed multiple free throws in the last minute of play. They committed some suspect fouls, including a flagrant. They coughed up a few turnovers and almost allowed UNLV to steal a victory. California has to play a lot better in the round of 32 against Syracuse if it wants to advance. UNLV has won only one NCAA tournament game in the past six seasons, so it’s not as though Cal did something improbable against the Runnin’ Rebels, despite its No. 12 seeding. This clash with Syracuse on Saturday night will take the full measure of the Bears.
It’s true that this game will be played a very short distance from Cal’s campus in Berkeley, thereby giving the Golden Bears an edge in terms of the crowd. However, Syracuse is coming off a 47-point win over Montana that enabled the Orange’s starters to gain a lot of rest. Syracuse should be fresh heading into this game, and its length near the rim is likely to be bothersome for Cal. Syracuse is quicker and more skilled. Its 2-3 zone has a chance to be very disruptive for the Golden Bears. Take the Orange on the college basketball odds here.
Pick: Syracuse -7
Memphis Tigers vs. Michigan State Spartans
Odds: Michigan State -5.5
This should be a very interesting game. Memphis played with a lot of pressure on its shoulders on Thursday, but it barely scraped by Saint Mary’s, 54-52. Memphis won its first NCAA tournament game under head coach Josh Pastner. On one hand, it took quite a while (four years) for Pastner to break through, but on the other hand, the Tigers might now feel that a great burden has been removed from their backs. If Memphis plays with great freedom and shoots a high percentage from three-point range, Michigan State is in big trouble. However, MSU works so hard at the defensive end of the floor that Memphis is not likely to play a very efficient game. Michigan State disposed of Valparaiso in such a decisive manner that it should have a full fuel tank for this contest on Saturday. Go with the Spartans on the betting lines – they have earned a bettor’s trust in March.
Pick: Michigan State -5.5
Wichita State Shockers vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Odds: Gonzaga -6.5
This is a fascinating matchup. A lot of pundits felt that Pittsburgh could have given Gonzaga some problems in a round-of-32 matchup, but Wichita State bested Pittsburgh to re-shift the dynamics of competitive tension in the West Region. Wichita State is not as rugged or as imposing in the middle as Gonzaga – not with super-frosh Kelly Olynyk patrolling the paint for the Zags – and that’s why the Shockers were viewed as an inferior matchup for GU. Pittsburgh was the better matchup for Gonzaga, the team that could trade blows with the Bulldogs near the rim. Wichita State’s victory is therefore a benefit for Gonzaga; the Bulldogs have fallen into a more favorable matchup and can thereby make the Sweet 16.
The biggest key for Gonzaga is to play with a lot more energy and passion in the second half. The Bulldogs, partly due to complacency and partly due to nervousness, tiptoed their way around Southern in the round of 64 on Thursday. Gonzaga played at a level that will get the Zags a beatdown in the coming days. The Bulldogs need all their starters to contribute, or at least most of them. Wichita State’s defense is soft enough for Gonzaga to advance.
Pick: Gonzaga -6.5