The NCAA Tournament schedule for Sunday involves four Sweet 16 games spread out during the day, with the Elite Eight field determined by the end of the night. The first game on the schedule is likely to be the most historic.
At 28-0, No. 1 seed Gonzaga is trying to become the first team since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated and win the national title. The Bulldogs are just four wins away from matching that Indiana team at 32-0. Up next is a game with No. 5 seed Creighton.
While the day's other three games could potentially be closer contests, a Gonzaga loss would surely be the day's most shocking upset. However, there are few indications this team is at risk of losing. Gonzaga has shown a knack recently for pulling away in the second half of games when it does receive a challenge.
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At first glance, it appears No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and Michigan face similar challenges on Sunday. The Bulldogs are squaring off against No. 5 seed Creighton, an excellent 3-point shooting team that finished second in the Big East. The Wolverines, meanwhile, face No. 4 seed Florida State. The Seminoles are a great 3-point shooting team that finished second in the ACC.
But oddsmakers see a big difference in the two games. Gonzaga is a 13.5-point favorite over Creighton, whereas Michigan is just a 2.5-point favorite against Florida State, according to William Hill Sportsbook.
For one thing, Gonzaga is the top overall seed, and at 28-0, its been the top team in the sport all season. Another factor in the disparity between the lines for the two games is the path Florida State took to reach this point. The Seminoles proved their mettle in a dominant 71-53 victory over No. 5 seed Colorado in the second round.
Creighton, by contrast, has beaten a No. 12 seed in UC-Santa Barbara and a No. 13 seed in Ohio.
When the bracket was released, it appeared Gonzaga had a relatively easy path out of the West Regional. The fact that it is such a heavy favorite in a Sweet 16 game is just further evidence of how manageable its journey could end up being.
A sweet Pac-12 showdown
When the NCAA Tournament selection committee assembled the West Region, it must have viewed this potential Sweet 16 meeting between a pair of conference foes as highly unlikely. But after each knocked off a better-seeded opponent in the second round, USC and Oregon are set to square off on Sunday. The No. 6 seed Trojans beat the No. 7 seed Ducks 72-58 in the regular season in their only meeting.
Much has changed since then, though. The Ducks finished with a winning surge to take the Pac-12 regular season title as USC hit some snags. Oregon and its transfer-heavy roster appear to be gelling at the right time, as evidenced by a 95-80 win over Iowa in the second round. It's a good matchup, but it's also a little bit of a downer for the Pac-12. The league is guaranteed to have at least two teams in the Elite Eight, and could have three if UCLA upsets Alabama on Sunday.
But if USC and Oregon weren't pitted against each other in this round, the conference could theoretically comprise half of the Elite Eight.
After shooting just a ho-hum 30% from 3-point range in its previous three games entering a second round showdown with Maryland, Alabama caught fire against the Terrapins. The Crimson Tide knocked down 16-of-33 long-range attempts and were unstoppable in a 96-77 victory.
That's bad news for UCLA. The No. 11 seed Bruins entered the weekend ranked 213th nationally in opponent 3-point shooting percentage at 34.2%. Basically, teams have been successful shooting from the outside against the Bruins this season, which makes playing Alabama a frightening proposition.
UCLA prefers a slow tempo, whereas as Alabama wants to run and shoot. It will be an immense challenge for the Bruins to dictate the tempo and avoid an avalanche of 3-pointers from the Crimson Tide.
2021 March Madness live stream
Date: Sunday, March 28 | Round: Sweet 16 | Regions: West, East
Live stream: March Madness Live