The Mayhem of March – Sweet 16

March 29, 2024

NCAAM: (5) Gonzaga vs. (1) Purdue

7:39 p.m. ET, TBS

Purdue -5.5 (-110) | O/U 154.5 (-110)

© Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports

The Purdue Boilermakers have unfinished business. A year ago, they became just the second team to ever lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This season, Zach Edey and Purdue have seemingly been on a mission to avenge that embarrassment.

A 78-50 win over No. 16-seeded Grambling gave them the confidence they needed to roll past No. 8 Utah State 106-67, a near 40-point win. However, things get tougher in the Sweet 16.

They will face No. 5 Gonzaga, a team that has also been dominant thus far in the big dance. The Bulldogs defeated McNeese State 86-65 in the first round and then cruised past Kansas 89-68. The Bulldogs trailed the Jayhawks by one point at halftime and outscored KU by 22 in the second half.

The line on the game is currently 5.0 points in favor of Purdue. A victory for the Boilermakers would advance them to their first Elite Eight since the 2018-19 season. A win for the Bulldogs would advance them to their second straight Elite Eight.

Gonzaga’s main man is forward Graham Ike. Ike scored 16.4 points and grabbed 7.3 rebounds per game. Not bad for the junior who started his college career at Wyoming. He will be tested in this game, though, as he competes with Zach Edey down low.

Edey scored 24.5 PPG and grabbed 12.1 rebounds per game. His scoring average was the most of any player in college basketball.

This game should be a high0scoring affair. Both teams scored an average of 83.9 PPG, which ranked ninth in the country. On top of that, these two teams have scored a total of 359 points this tournament, which is an average of 89.5 points per team per game.

The defensive numbers are similar, as well. Gonzaga allowed opposing teams to score 69.2 PPG, while Gonzaga’s number for that category is 69.5. Both ranked below 80th in the nation in total defense.

The Boilermakers and Bulldogs are both hot, high scoring teams, with potential to win it all. There’s one key difference between the two teams, though. The Boilermakers would view a loss as a complete failure, and the Bulldogs, while they wouldn’t be thrilled, would view this season as a success after losing so many key players in the offseason.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Purdue ML (-230) 

Given the motivation for Purdue, the Boilermakers are the way to go on this one. They have the highest scoring player in the nation, and he and his team have unfinished business. Take them to win in a close one.


NCAAM: (3) Creighton vs. (2) Tennessee 

10:09 p.m. ET, TBS

Tennessee -3.5 (-110) | O/U 144.0 (-110)

An epic 2-vs.-3 matchup will take place in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when Creighton faces off against Tennessee. Both have legit Final Four aspirations.

The Volunteers finished the regular season with a 26-8 record, but they were unable to obtain a No. 1 seed in the big dance after an ugly loss to Mississippi State in the first round of the SEC tournament. They have had a good run in March Madness, though, beating last year’s Cinderella team in St. Peter’s and No. 7-seeded Texas in a four-point victory.

The Blue Jays also lost in the first round of their conference tournament when they fell five points short to Providence. But they’ve had a good March Madness run, as they beat No. 14 Akron by 17 and were able to defeat 11th-seeded Oregon by 13 in a double overtime thriller.

This will be the first time that Creighton will face a single digit seed in this tournament. They are currently a 2.5-point underdog.

The Blue Jays are led by a big 3 of Baylor Scheierman, Trey Alexander and Ryan Kalkbrenner. Scheierman is the leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, but Alexander and Kalkbrenner both add on 17.0-plus per night.

Kalkbrenner is the big man down low, standing at 7-foot-1. But it’s Scheierman who leads the team in rebounds, impressive for a guard. The Blue Jays are a big, physical team that will be a lot for the fast paced, smaller Volunteers to handle.

The Volunteers are led by Dalton Knecht. The 6-foot-6 guard scored 21.1 PPG, which ranked in top 20 in the country. Knecht gets his help from Jonas Aidoo and Zakai Zegler, who score 12.0 and 11.7 PPG, respectively.

The Volunteers ranked 36th in total offense and 34th in total defense this season. They are a very-balanced team that plays at a decently high pace.

The Blue Jays rank 23rd in total offense, but they were just 87th in total defense. They are extremely high scoring, but they are fine with slowing things down. Creighton can play down low with Kalkbrenner or shoot threes with Scheierman and Ashworth. The game against Oregon could be viewed as worrisome, but both Creighton and Tennessee had unlikely close games in the round of 32.

This game should be one for the ages and is without a doubt the best matchup in the Sweet 16. A close game can be expected, but who comes out on top?

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Creighton ML (+150) 

The Volunteers are balanced and have the best overall player, but the Blue Jays are bigger and are good at winning close games. The value lies with the underdog in this one. Take Creighton to pull off the slight upset.