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Litwin’s Locks: 2021 March Madness Sweet Sixteen edition

Outside of the McKale Center.
Maverick Arnold
The ticket office on the south side of McKale Center

I feel like I’m going through withdrawal after spending four straight days watching basketball from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. I turn on CBS, TNT, TBS and TRUTV and expect to see a game or to hear the velvety cords of Greg Gumbel, but nope. It was an incredible first two rounds of the tournament, including Oral Roberts as the Cinderella team, the growing legend of Sister Jean and the Pac-12’s domination after serving as the media’s punching bag all year. Add Gonzaga looking to be as good as hyped, and it’s officially “there goes my bracket season.” Let’s take a look at the eight Sweet Sixteen games and see if we can lock some winners.   

NCAA March Madness Lines according to @ 3:44 PM M.S.T

Saturday, March 27th

No.12 Oregon State vs No. 8 Loyola Chicago (-6.5)

Oregon State is on a magical run after being picked to finish last in the Pac-12. Instead of finishing last, they won the Pac-12 tournament and two March Madness games. The magic comes to an end as they run into the buzzsaw that is Loyola Chicago. The beat down Loyola put on Illinois in the Round of 32 was eye opening: whatever Sister Jean is telling them pregame is working. I get the feeling the 101-year-old has more up her sleeve. Pick: Loyola Chicago -6.5

No.1 Baylor (-7) vs No. 5 Villanova

I doubted this Villanova team would get past the first round without guard Collin Gillespie, but I was very wrong. Sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has been a handful for opponents in the paint. That said, I do believe Baylor will win this game. Baylor’s guard play is better and the players are more athletic. I predict this game comes down to the last few possessions, which favors Baylor’s’ talent, but it will be by less than seven points. Pick: Villanova +7

No. 15 Oral Roberts vs No. 3 Arkansas (-11)

Story of the tournament has to be this surprising Oral Roberts team. Sadly, the Cinderella story is going to come to an ugly stepsister end. Arkansas is just too efficient offensively for Oral Roberts to stick around. Woo Pig Sooie. Pick: Arkansas -11

No. 11 Syracuse vs No. 2 Houston (-6)

The legend of Buddy Boeheim grows with every minute he is on the court. Not to brag, but I had Syracuse going this far in my bracket and I have them winning this game. The 2-3 zone is giving opponents nightmares and, while great defensively, Houston has struggled to score the ball. This game might not be the most visually appealing, but I’m confident Syracuse not only covers but wins outright. Pick: Syracuse +6

Sunday, March 28th

No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (-13.5)

Gonzaga has been as good as advertised so far in the tournament. I guess the only way to beat them is for Creighton to have an unreal shooting night and hope Gonzaga has an off night. Creighton is set up for such an outcome since they are one of the better shooting teams left in this tournament, but I can’t go against Gonzaga. This game could be close at halftime, but I see Gonzaga running away with it in the last 10 minutes. 13.5 points is a lot against a talented Creighton team, but this Gonzaga team doesn’t just win, they blow people out. Pick: Gonzaga -13.5

RELATED: Preview of the Pac-12 teams who have reached the Sweet Sixteen in the men’s NCAA tournament

No. 1 Michigan (-3) vs. No. 4 Florida State

This is a fascinating game because Michigan has looked excellent this tournament without one of their better players in Isaiah Livers. I thought Livers’ absence would have had a bigger impact on this Michigan team, but they haven’t skipped a beat. Michigan goes against a Florida State squad that is extremely long and athletic. About 10-11 deep, Florida State has no problem having fresh bodies on the floor. This game is a toss up, but I will lean Michigan because the spread is only three, and center Hunter Dickinson is a problem in the paint. Pick: Michigan -3

No. 11 UCLA vs No. 2 Alabama (-6.5)

I didn’t think UCLA had a chance in its First Four game against Michigan State and was I proven wrong. This team finds a way to win playing head coach Mick Cronin’s gritty style of basketball. However, UCLA plays an Alabama team that is stout on defense and can rain threes in from anywhere. This line seems a little big to me, but Alabama is the better team. Pick: -6.5

No.6 USC (-2.5) vs No.7 Oregon 

Pac-12 on Pac-12 crime in the Sweet 16. This will be an interesting matchup since these teams are familiar with each other. Oregon is finally healthy, and it is much better than its ranking suggests. Head coach Dana Altman has a way of getting his guys ready for big games. USC is coming off a statement win over Kansas. It was one of the more impressive wins for any team in this entire tournament. USC center Evan Mobley is going to be a lottery pick and the difference in this game. Pick: USC -2.5 

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