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Sunday’s Games: Could Southern Cal Challenge Gonzaga?

After the last two games, you have to wonder

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Oregon at Southern California
Oregon Ducks guard Will Richardson (0) and USC Trojans forward Isaiah Mobley (3) fight for the rebound during the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 28, 2021, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. 
IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

After Sunday’s NCAA tournament games, we’re down to Gonzaga, USC, Michigan, UCLA in addition to Saturday’s winners, Baylor, Arkansas, Oregon State and Houston.

Obviously with USC, UCLA, and Oregon State still dancing, it’s a big year for the PAC-12, but all of them face challenging opponents next time.

USC may get the booby prize of playing Gonzaga on Tuesday, but then again, the Trojans have been playing so well that suddenly they look like a formidable challenger. They weren’t as devastating as they were against Kansas, but USC had little trouble with Oregon, and that sets up an interesting game with Gonzaga.

Both teams have rolled to this point but not many people saw Southern Cal exploding like this. Their athleticism and defense could give Gonzaga more trouble than they expect.

Gonzaga blew by Creighton 83-65 where former Blue Devil Alex O’Connell now plays. He got five minutes and scored one basket.

Gonzaga shot 59.6 percent but some minor concerns popped up. Three point shooting was average and the Zags only go to the line, hitting 6-10. They also lost the offensive boards to Creighton, 10-6. Most surprisingly, they had 16 turnovers

None of this matters when you’re blowing teams away but in a close game it would - and keep in mind that Gonzaga has had exactly one of those this year.

We thought Florida State could defend as well as Michigan, but that idea was shattered quickly. Florida State was just not in Michigan’s class. We stuck with FSU out of ACC loyalty but the ‘Noles just couldn’t keep up with Michigan, which appears to have adjusted to Isaiah Livers’ absence about as well as anyone could.

The ACC has no team in the Elite Eight for the first time, if we heard correctly, since 2014.

UCLA and Alabama at least provided some drama with the only close game, but in overtime the Bruins pulled away, winning by 10.

As much fun as Nate Oats’ team has been, it’s not without flaws and UCLA forced 14 turnovers and held Alabama’s swash-buckling offense to 7-28 from three point range. Worse, ‘Bama shot just 11-25 from the line which is pretty awful. If Alabama had hit a few more it would have been a different game and Alabama might be playing Tuesday night rather than UCLA.

Monday's games are intriguing. Oregon State has stunned in the post-season and while Houston is certainly going to be favored, everyone should know by now that the Beavers have become a very dangerous team.

The nightcap is an old Southwestern Conference reunion between Arkansas and Baylor. After watching Baylor’s guards turn things up against Villanova Friday, we won’t pick against them until the finals.

When you get down to it, it looks like the three teams that seemed the best bets going in - Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan - have been joined by Southern Cal.