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March Madness 2021: The Sweet Sixteen (Day 1)

Back with the picks after half of my bracket looks like someone bled all over the right side of it. Still alive though! A bracket is not officially busted until your champion is out, and Gonzaga is still around. Saturday’s matchups provide the opportunity for absolute chaos in the Elite 8 and the Final Four. Let’s talk about these matchups

Oregon State vs. Loyola Chicago

A matchup that seemed highly unlikely, mainly because Oregon St. is the team very out of place here. Loyola Chicago upsetting Illinois was certainly a shock, but seeing as they have done this before (2018) and seemingly everytime they are in the NCAA Tournament looking back at their history. Oregon St. is not supposed to be here though. They definitely earned the right to be here, but going back two weeks ago, they needed to win the Pac-12 tournament just to get to the Big Dance and if anyone outside of Corvallis had them doing that, they would have been deemed insane. However, they managed to shock the basketball world by upending Oklahoma St and Cade Cunningham, who a lot of people have as the first overall pick in the next NBA draft.

The Ramblers enter this game as the favorite at -7, and I like them to cover that and win pretty easily. They shoot well, rebound well, and don’t turn the ball over much at all. They do have trouble at the free throw line at times, but that should not be an issue in this round. It will be in the Elite Eight, Final Four, and possible Championship game, but today, the Beavers run ends to a team that is ripping off its Cinderalla label furiously with recent success. The Rambers win and cover.

Villanova vs. Baylor

The Wildcats avoided the classic 12 vs. 5 upset against Winthrop and have showed that despite an injury to a team leader, they are led by a legendary coach and are a team that can overcome anything. Baylor has not had any trouble yet as they look to continue marching to the Final Four. Villanova making it to the Sweet 16 will be a test though. I had the Bears making it here, but not the Wildcats. This presents a new challenge for the Bears. Villanova is has experience to lean on here despite being a young team. They shoot the ball well from the field and from 3, which can keep them in any game. Baylor has to rebound the ball well. In their 2 losses, while not shooting well, they were outrebounded or it was even. That is their bread and butter to go along with great shooting. The Bears are favored by -7.5, but I see it being a close first half before they pull away convincingly in the second. Look for Baylor to survive this test well and cover.

Oral Roberts vs. Arkansas

This year’s cinderella team vs. a heavy favorite that has not been playing that way. This reeks of a wild upset. Arkansas had a terrible 25-35 minutes against Colgate in their first round matchup, which saw them pull away at the very very end of the game. They played a tough Texas Tech team, but again did not shoot well from 3, were out rebounded, and were average from the free throw line.

Oral Roberts is playing with house money. They shocked the world and busted brackets by beating Ohio St. despite being heavily outrebounded. They shot the ball very well and defended well against Ohio St, which is how they ended up winning that game. Florida was less of a surprise, but still a bit shocking. I had the Gators losing to Virginia Tech and I was not too shocked they managed to lose this game. That has been the story of Florida all year long: Inconsistency. Now they face another favorite and a chance to make the Elite 8.

The Hogs are favored at -11 and as fun of a bet it would be to make, I am staying with the favorite and picking Arkansas to win this game and cover. Arkansas will snap out of their funk and shoot much better from the field and from 3. The rebounding margin will show as a weakness for Oral Roberts and Arkansas should win by 20. Look for Moses Moody to have a nice night as well leading the way for Arkansas. It’s been fun for Oral Roberts.

Syracuse vs. Houston

The final matchup of the evening sees a Syracuse team that is somehow making another improable run in the NCAA Tournament when they possibly should have been left out against a Houston team looking to avoid another heartbreaking loss in the Big Dance and show they are back as a National Powerhouse.

The Cougars come in as the favorite at -6.5 and are playing well. While they did not shoot well from the free throw line at all against Rutgers, they managed to pull out a tough win. The reason I am not too worried about Houston is that despite Rutgers weak end to the year, they were a top 10 team during the year and that counts for something. The Scarlet Knights are a very talented team who should be back next year. That was always going to be a difficult matchup. I see them playing well tonight.

Syracuse is back again after clawing together enough wins late in the season to make the NCAA Tournament. It seems every year they are able to do that, despite looking rough during the regular season, they turly reset their season and play well for the potential final 6 games of the season that are in front of them. Buddy Boeheim is playing fantastic basketball and that famous zone defense of the Orange caused problems for San Diego State in the first roung matchup.

Winning this game will help erase memories of the loss to Michigan three years ago and the loss to Ohio St. two years ago, and put them one step closer to reaching the Final Four. The potential and talent are all there for the Cougars, they just need to play good defense and avoid falling into a shooting rut. I see them doing just that and winning tonight. I expect a close start to the game, but I do not expect the Orange to keep shooting at the same clip they are currently shooting at. Houston will clamp down and the Courgars win and cover.

Back at it with the March Madness coverage! Hope your brakcets are still alive ! Let us know who you have in the Final Four and winning it all!

*Live update: Loyola Chicago is going cold at the end of the first half, and are down 24-16 at halftime. The Beaver bench is playing well, but expect the Ramblers to shoot better in the second half. It will be an exciting finish! *

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Follow me on Twitter: @CaseyMoninghoff


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