Third Round NCAA Tournament Picks: Ohio State and Gonzaga Square Off Saturday

2012 NCAA Tournament
Third Round – East Region
Saturday, 3/17/12, 2:45 p.m. Eastern, TV: CBS
#2 Ohio State Buckeyes (28-7) vs. #7 Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-6)
CONSOL Energy Center – Pittsburgh, PA
Opening Line: Ohio State -7
Current Line: Ohio State -7.5
Opening Total: 134.5
Current Total: 136.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Ohio State vs. Gonzaga NCAA Tournament Preview
Elias Harris and the Bulldogs hope to shoot their way past Ohio State on Saturday.

The second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes played like the favorites in the NCAA tournament’s East Region on Thursday in their 78-59 rout of No. 15 Loyola (Maryland) in the second round.  However, the seventh-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-6) may have played even better in their 77-54 blowout victory against No. 10 West Virginia, setting up for a huge showdown with the Buckeyes (28-7) in the third round on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Ohio State (-7.5, O/U 136.5) saw sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas go off for a career-high 31 points and grab 12 rebounds against the Greyhounds to help overcome poor shooting from star Jared Sullinger, who made just 4 of 14 attempts from the field to finish with 12 points and 11 boards.  The Buckeyes jumped out to a 42-31 halftime lead despite shooting only 34 percent from the field as a team but made 61 percent after the intermission to stay far ahead of Loyola and cover the spread for the fourth time in five games.

Gonzaga was even hotter from the start against the Mountaineers, leading 40-22 at halftime and cruising to an easy win behind a pair of freshmen.  The first-year backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. totaled 27 points between them while senior center Robert Sacre held West Virginia’s leading scorer Kevin Jones in check.  Sacre won West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors and held Jones to 13 points, which is seven below his season average.

Sacre’s next defensive assignment will be Sullinger, who came back to school this year in hopes of leading Ohio State to a national championship.  But Sacre has other plans and will look to neutralize Sullinger and make other players like Thomas and William Buford beat the Bulldogs.  Buford is the team’s third-leading scorer and had 17 points against the Greyhounds.

Pangos led Gonzaga in scoring this season and bounced back from a terrible performance in a 78-74 overtime loss to St. Mary’s in the WCC tournament title game.  He made just 3 of 18 shots in that game, including 1 of 10 from 3-point range, but was an efficient 5 of 7 against West Virginia.

This could be another high-scoring game between two teams that both averaged more than 74 points per game this season and have scored even more over their past five.  The OVER is 7-1 in the last eight games for the Buckeyes and 20-6-2 in the past 28 NCAA tournament games for the Bulldogs.

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