We will start in the West bracket where Arkansas plays Gonzaga, and Texas Tech takes on Duke, each for a chance to advance to the Elite Eight.
Arkansas vs. Gonzaga
Thursday 3/24, 7:09 ET
The Razorbacks are coming off narrow wins over New Mexico State and Vermont, two talented teams but nowhere close in ability to #1 seeded Gonzago. Prior to that, Arkansas lost by 18 to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament, a team that controversially didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament. Other credible wins late in the season came aganst Kentucky and LSU, however both of those well-regarded teams were upset in the first round of the Big Dance. Arkansas will be another SEC team exiting the tournament this week.
Drew Timme put on an incredible display of talent in the 2nd half of the Memphis game. Gonzaga is simply too stacked for Arkansas and we see this as a fairly easy win for Mark Few’s team. We’re willingly to make a small play laying the points with the Zags.
Texas Tech vs. Duke
Thursday 3/24, 9:39 ET
Duke isn’t in the comfy confines of the Carolinas, anymore. Duke is traveling cross-country to San Francisco and the neutral court hurts the Blue Devils who are used to playing with the home crowd on their side. Both Duke and Texas Tech fans travel well, so there will be plenty of support for the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech is led by Kevin Obanor, a powerful forward who led Oral Roberts to a Cinderella-run in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 last year. The Red Raiders have an outstanding defense, ranked by some standards as the best in the nation. They figure to stifle Duke in the paint and make it very difficult for Duke to put up the points they are used to. This team won 11 games against top 50 opponents prior to the tournament, whereas Duke sported six victories during the year. There is a reason Texas Tech is actually favored, albeit by a point, over Duke. Take the Red Raiders to advance.
The East bracket features North Carolina and UCLA and the Purdue Boilermakers taking on the St. Peters Peacocks.
North Carolina vs. UCLA
Friday 3/25, 9:39 ET
The red-hot Tar Heels feature a true center in the 6-foot-10 Armando Bacot and another powerhouse with 6-foot-9 Brady Manek, leading to matchup difficulties for the UCLA Bruins. Manek was thrown out of the game against Baylor, which led to last year’s National Championship making an improbably 25 point comeback to take the game into overtime. North Carolina, which dominated most of the game, prevailed in the added minutes.
UCLA star guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. will no doubt play Friday but may not be 100 percent. Mick Cronin’s team has played most of the season with some type of injuries, so this is par for the course for last year’s runner-ups. They got here with a narrow win over Akron and then a decisive score over St. Mary’s. This is their toughest opponent since facing Arizona in the conference tournament.
The Tar Heels have looked like the sleeper team of the tournament, and this figures to be a great game against a very game UCLA team. We’re leaning towards the hot hand in the North Carolina Tar Heels.
St. Peters vs. Purdue
Friday 3/25, 7:09 ET
Another NCAA Sweet 16 and another amazing Cinderella story. This time around it’s St. Peters, a school that had never won a single game in the Big Dance. Now, under coach Shaheen Holloway they own two wins including a shocking upset over #2 Kentucky, a team many thought could go all the way behind big man Oscar. Purdue has their own big man in the 7 foot 2 giant under the basket, Zach Edy.
Although clearly outsized, St. Peters has 6-foot-7 forward KC Ndefo, one of the country’s best shot blockers. As a junior in the 2020-21 season, he led the nation with an impressive 3.6 blocks per game. You can’t measure heart and that is what the Peacocks have in abundance. They have a bulldog mentality and that can help them stay in the game against Purdue.
Only ten No. 15 seeds have ever won an NCAA tournament game and only two — Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 and Oral Roberts in 2021 — were able to make it to the Sweet 16. They both lost there, so no No. 15 seed as ever won a game after the first week. However, Oral Roberts lost in the finals second last year to Arkansas.
- 2013 — No. 3 seed Florida def. Florida Gulf Coast, 62-50
- 2021 — No. 3 seed Arkansas def. Oral Roberts, 72-70
Purdue has lost 16 times to a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament, including last year in the first round to #13 seed North Texas. Purdue is far from invincible as they have shown in so many years past. We’re taking the points with an aggressive St. Peters team that is very strong defensively.