The Mayhem of March – Day 3

March 23, 2024

NCAAM: (14) Oakland vs. (11) NC State

7:10 p.m. ET, truTV

NC State -6 (-110) | O/U 147 (-110)

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Cinderella vs. Cinderella in this one. Or so it seems.

On paper, a matchup between two double-digit seeds certainly looks like a classic example of two upstarts defying the odds. But only one team probably belongs in that category.

NC State is a No. 11 seed, but they’re a storied program. The Wolfpack play in a marquee conference and have had plenty of tournament success in the past. So it’s hard to call them a Cinderella.

Yes, they’ve lost 14 games this season. Yes, it took an unexpected run through the ACC tournament to get them into the dance. And yes, they upset Texas Tech on Thursday.

But they aren’t in the same class as Oakland. Not even close.

Most people don’t even know what state the school is in. They think California, when the reality is Michigan.

But the Golden Grizzlies put themselves on the map with a huge upset in the tourney opener. They knocked off Kentucky on Thursday, sending the No. 3 seed home and blowing up a ton of brackets.

Now, they’ll try to keep it going. And they have a great chance at success.

NC State is one of the hottest teams in the country. They’ve rattled off six-straight wins to get to this point. But prior to the ACC tournament, the Wolfpack were just 17-14. They were the definition of mediocre.

Oakland, on the other hand, is legit. They’re 24-11 on the season and proved that they can hang with anyone.

How? Because they can knock down three-point shots.

Against Kentucky, the Grizz went 15-of-31 from beyond the arc. They were led by Jack Gohlke, who went 10-of-20 off the bench.

The senior has become a bit of a cult hero in the last 48 hours. His one-dimensional game, which is essentially just shooting from long range, has endeared him to college hoops fans. He’s a specialist, but he’s special at it.

Look for Oakland to continue firing it up from outside. If they’re hitting, they’ll be a tough out.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Oakland ML (+210) 

The magical run will continue for the Golden Grizzlies, while it comes to an end for the Wolfpack. Oakland is the better team, even if the line doesn’t suggest as much. That provides great value, as money coming in on the recognizable program is skewing the numbers. Greg Kampe has a very solid program and the head coach is riding a hot hand. He’ll get his team to the Sweet 16.


NCAAM: (11) Oregon vs. (3) Creighton

9:40 p.m. ET, truTV

Creighton -4.5 (-110) | O/U 146 (-110)

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jermaine Couisnard was one of the biggest stars during the first two full days of the tournament. The guard dropped 40 points on South Carolina, his former team, to help Oregon knock off South Carolina on Thursday.

It’s not shocking the Couisnard led the Ducks. After all, he was their leading scorer during the season. But he was so far beyond his 16.1 points per game average that it was mesmerizing.

Can he do it again? Well, probably not. But he might not have to. Oregon is playing great basketball of late, far beyond one player.

The Ducks have won five-straight games. They rolled through the Pac-12 tournament, cutting down the nets in Las Vegas. And they kept it going during March Madness, knocking off South Carolina by 14 points.

They’ll face a big challenge in Saturday’s final game, however. Creighton has been a top-10 team for most of the season. The Blue Jays earned a No. 3 seed for a reason.

Baylor Scheierman leads Creighton in scoring. The senior averages 18.3 points per game.

But he’s not alone. Trey Alexander pours in 17.6, while Ryan Kalkbrenner chips in 17.3 That’s three legitimate scorers that make the Blue Jays really difficult to defend.

If Oregon is going to be able to hang with Creighton, they’re going to need their big man to play well. N’Faly Dante led the Ducks in scoring this season, averaging 16.5 points per game. He’ll need to outduel Kalkbrenner in the paint in a great battle of big men.

Both teams have 24 wins on the season. Who will get to No. 25? It’ll be a doozy of a game in Pittsburgh to find out.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Creighton ML (-200) 

Oregon is athletic and talented, but they’re not good enough to hang with Creighton. The Blue Jays have been a top program all season long, with their eyes on the tournament. Now, they’ll start to reap the rewards of a great campaign. They can punch a ticket to the Sweet 16 by beating a No. 11 seed. They’ll get it done. Oregon might make it close, but Creighton will ultimately prevail.