#1 Gonzaga vs. #5 Creighton
Gonzaga is such a great team who has dominated most of their games this year. With double digit wins in both tournament matchups so far, they will look to make it three. Creighton struggled and snuck past USCB in the opening round, but bounced back by beating Ohio by 14. Gonzaga is on another level averaging 92 points per game and giving up 63, led by senior forward Corey Kispert, who is scoring 19 points per game on 54-45-90. Kispert is as efficient as they come, and the rest of the lineup can be very dangerous when given the chance. Freshman Jalen Suggs is a stud who will hear his name called very early in the upcoming draft, since he is averaging 14-5-4 and has been incredible all season. For Creighton, they’ll need Marcus Zegarowski to be almost perfect. The junior guard has been a very consistent scorer putting up just under 16 a game.
Keys to the Game
Creighton has their work cut out for them, as Gonzaga is just such an incredible team. Nobody has beaten them this season, and they have continued to get the job done. From one to five, Gonzaga is stacked with guys that can score the ball both effectively and efficiently with four starters averaging double digit points per game and the lowest shooting 49% from the field. Creighton is going to need to play their best game ever to pull this off; they will need to play smart, take high percentage shots, and not to force anything, while taking what the defense gives them and taking care of the ball. If they can’t take care of the ball, they won’t beat a team as consistent on both sides of the court as Gonzaga. Creighton is not going to outscore Gonzaga, so their best bet is to play some intense defense in an attempt to limit Gonzaga to a season low.
Gonzaga just needs to play their game: let their shooters find their spots and trust each other. Their style of play has them undefeated and their lineup is stacked with talent. They score so efficiently and will continue to do so if they play solid defense and don’t get into foul trouble. Limiting Creighton to one shot and playing as a team is key. Unlike most teams, they don’t need one guy to carry them; a balanced effort will get the job done.
Prediction: Gonzaga cruises past Creighton to the Elite Eight.
#6 USC vs. #7 Oregon
I cannot wait for this matchup as both teams have been playing some great basketball. While Oregon got an auto advance in the first round, they showed that there was no rust to shake off by taking it to Iowa. They played such a great game, dropping 95 points and shooting 56% from the field and 44% from deep. If they can continue to shoot this efficiently, it is hard to see them losing. It’s hard to believe they were a 7 seed with a record of 21-6. USC is a very solid team led by freshman Evan Mobley. Mobley and his brother led the way with Evan grabbing 13 rebounds and dominating the glass, and Isaiah Mobley scoring a game high 17 points in a huge victory over Kansas. Oregon is led by senior guard Chris Duarte who is a really good three-and-d guy and will play at the next level, alongside teammate Eugene Omoruyi who will need to go to work this matchup. Omoruyi will need to score more than his 16 per game, in order to help secure a win over their conference rival.
Keys to the Game
USC needs to dominate the glass again because if you let a team like Oregon consistently get multiple looks per possession, you are probably not going to win. This Oregon team can score, so you have to take advantage of misses and use them to build a lead or to stay in striking range. USC came out on top 72-58 in the regular season and the key was winning the battle on the boards 39-25. Oregon shot 40% from the field and deep and just didn’t get many second chance opportunities. USC can’t get cocky with their 14-point win earlier in the season, this Oregon team will come in hungry looking to return the favor. It is important for USC to come out early and set the tone for the game, then keep their foot on the gas the entire time. If they get complacent, a lead will not last. Mobley is a beast and should be able to get his points, but they need a few more guys to step up and score to really secure the win.
Oregon just needs to battle on the glass as best as they can; taking smart shots, playing high IQ basketball, forcing takeaways, and taking care of the ball are all ways they can grab a win. Duarte needs to step up, only taking 8 shots like in their last matchup isn’t going to get it done. Another player who will need to play one of his best games is Omoruyi who was 3-10 in the last head-to-head. Averaging just under 17 points per game, Omoruyi is heavily relied upon by his team, and if he does not show up to play, the game is over.
Prediction: USC edges out Oregon in a highly competitive game and advances