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NCAA West Region First Round Best Picks: USC, Gonzaga
How the West was won. If this is not Gonzaga coming out of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball West Region, you are going to have a major betting story. The Zags are going to be favored by double digits in any game they play (by odds and picks), and have already beaten Iowa (99-88), Kansas (102-90), and Virginia (98-75), the second, third, and fourth seeds in the bracket, by a combined 46 points.
But there are other games in the First Round that might be competitive, with a lot of underdogs set to make noise.
NCAA Men’s Basketball West Region Games with odds, predictions, and upset picks:
NCAA West Region First Round
(All games Saturday, March 20)
3-Kansas vs. 14-Eastern Washington
3-Kansas (-700) vs. 14-Eastern Washington (+475), 1:15 p.m. EDT (TBS). Kansas -10.5, total 146.
The Pick: Eastern Washington +10.5; small wager on EW ML (+475).
Kansas has been in the COVID-19 protocols, and there is some doubt about who will play and who won’t; David McCormack is the key question for the Jayhawks.
Before there was a COVID doubt, though, this matchup was going to be a tough one for Kansas. Eastern Washington can score 78 ppg.), and if the Eagles can soar out to a lead at the break, this could be an upset alert. Kansas probably wins, but the points are a lot here.
5-Creighton vs. 12-UC Santa Barbara
5-Creighton (-340) vs. 12-UC Santa Barbara (+270), 3:30 p.m. EDT (truTV). Creighton -7.5, total 138.
The Pick: UCSB +7.5 .
Is there a more hated person in college basketball right now than Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott? His racist remarks have destabilized the program, and basically gave neutrals a reason to root for USCB. The Gauchos come in at 22-4, but have lacked quality wins this season. They have, though, rolled through the games they did play, and pose a threat here.
6-USC vs. 11-Wichita St./Drake
6-USC vs. 11-Wichita St./Drake, 4:30 p.m. EDT (TNT). No line until Thursday. The Pick: USC.
Another of the games that we have to wait and see, with Wichita State and Drake set to play Thursday night in the First Four.
But USC is good, and Evan Mobley is fantastic. If the Trojans are anything less than a six-point favorite, jump all over that.
2-Iowa vs. 15-Grand Canyon
2-Iowa (-1700) vs. 15-Grand Canyon (+900), 6:25 p.m. EDT (TBS). Iowa -14.5, total 145.
The Pick: Grand Canyon +14.5; over 145; small amount on GC ML (+900).
Grand Canyon has the size to battle Iowa and Luka Garza for much of this game, but will the Antelopes be able to stay out of foul trouble to stay in the contest for 40 minutes?
Iowa is a tough, battle tested, Big 10 team. But the Hawkeyes have let teams rack up some points, and the Antelopes average 76 per game.
Iowa probably has enough to stave off any upset, but Grand Canyon, in its first appearance, could make things interesting for a while.
4-Virginia vs. 13-Ohio
4-Virginia (-360) vs. 13-Ohio (+285) 7:15 p.m. EDT (truTV). Virginia -7, total 131. The Pick: Ohio +7, but tough to bet this without roster info.
Virginia is in COVID-19 protocols, and will not even travel to Indianapolis until Friday, the day before the game. Not a big deal, but if the defending champions (2019, no tournament in 2020) are missing a bunch of players, this game becomes tough to call.
Virginia ranks dead last (357 of 357) in possessions per game, so if Ohio, which ranks near the top of the NCAA in offensive efficiency, can make shots, this could be an upset alert contest.
Tough to call without seeing who is playing for Virginia.
8-Oklahoma vs. 9-Missouri
8-Oklahoma (-130) vs. 9-Missouri (+110), 7:25 p.m. EDT (TNT). Oklahoma -2, total 141. The Pick: Oklahoma ML (-130).
This is a battle of two teams that were all over the place in 2020-21, which is probably the reason they are both in the 8-9 game. Both teams have some big wins and head-scratching losses, so this game is probably the toughest to pick in the bracket.
It could come down to the free throw line, and that is where Oklahoma has the distinct advantage. But honestly, you could make a case for either to advance.
1-Gonzaga vs. 16-Norfolk st./Appalachian
1-Gonzaga vs. 16-Norfolk st./Appalachian St., 9:20 p.m. EDT (TBS). No line until Thursday. Gonzaga projected -25. The Pick: Gonzaga ; Gonzaga to win the tournament (+225).
It does not matter which team Gonzaga plays; this game will be a rout.
The only question is, do the Zags get players out early to rest them for Monday, and let whichever team pick up a back door cover?
7-Oregon vs. 10-VCU
7-Oregon (-250) vs. 10-VCU (+205), 9:57 p.m. EDT (TNT). Oregon -5.5, total 137.The Pick: VCU +5.5; small wager on VCU ML (+205).
Oregon won the Pac-12 regular season title, and could be set up for a run in the bracket if it can get past a tough VCU team. Eugene Omoruyi and Chris Duarte lead the Ducks at 16.3 points per game, and they are two of five players in the team that average double figures.
While VCU might not score as much as Oregon, it has A-10 POY Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland leading the way at almost 20 per game. The Rams also play stifling defense, and can shut down any offense in the country.
This should be a close contest.
BEST BETS: USC, Gonzaga
BEST UNDERDOG PLAY: Grand Canyon +14.5, Eastern Washington +10.5
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