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NY Post
New York Post
25 Mar 2023

NextImg:March Madness Elite Eight picks: UConn vs. Gonzaga predictions, odds

After a stunning Sweet 16 that saw both remaining No. 1 seeds go down, UConn and Gonzaga find themselves among the shortest title favorites ahead of their Elite Eight clash on Saturday.

The Huskies have faced little resistance through the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll face their toughest test yet against the Bulldogs, who survived one of the best games of March Madness to down UCLA in the Sweet 16.

Here’s how we’re betting Saturday’s contest, which tips off at 8:49 p.m. ET on TBS.

If you’ve been paying attention to the NCAA Tournament since the beginning, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to see UConn among the final eight teams standing after its dominant run to this point.

And, at this point, it’d be surprising if the run ended here.

Connecticut looked like one of the best teams in the country when it opened the season with 14 straight wins, which included a blowout victory over Alabama in November.

Sure enough, after a midseason swoon, the Huskies have ripped off nine wins in their last 10 games – all by at least seven points – and currently rank No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin across the full season.

UConn has been far and away the best team over the last month, ranking No. 1 in T-Rank’s power rating since that 9-1 run began on Feb. 18.

The key has been sheer dominance inside, with top-15 ranks in 2-point percentage on offense (58.3%) and defense (43.3%) and the nation’s fourth-best offensive rebound rate (41.7%).

Adama Sanogo

UConn Huskies center Adama Sanogo
NCAA Photos via Getty Images

At the center of it all is junior star Adama Sanogo, who has emerged as the single-most dominant force in the entire field.

The 6-9, 245-pound center has asserted his will in this tournament, averaging 23.3 points and 9.7 rebounds on 75% shooting in just 25 minutes per game.

His success is usually a bellwether for the Huskies, who are 19-0 all-time when he scores at least 20 points – as he has three times in seven games this March.

All of that should seriously concern Gonzaga, which has famously struggled against physical, lengthy frontcourts and could be in for a long night on Saturday.

We know how good the Zags can be offensively when everything is clicking, but this team also runs everything through senior big Drew Timme (21.5 PPG) – as evidenced by his 36-point effort in Thursday’s wild win over UCLA.

That’ll be a serious challenge against Sanogo and 7-2 teammate Donovan Clingan, two of the best shot-blockers in college basketball.

If Timme’s teammates can’t step up on Saturday – and they were practically invisible on Thursday – I’m deeply skeptical of Gonzaga’s ability to generate offense against a UConn defense that’s held all three tournament opponents to worse than 43% inside the arc.

And then there’s the questions on the other end for the Bulldogs, who barely rank inside the top 75 in defensive efficiency.

Yes, Gonzaga’s defense showed some fight in the second half of its Sweet 16 win, but the Bruins erased that work with 10 points in the final 52 seconds and still averaged 1.04 points per possession across the entire game.

Everything about this matchup seems to favor UConn, which has won all 14 of its non-conference games by double digits and has already posted three wins of 15-plus points in this tournament.

Saturday’s result may not reach those margins, but I’d be surprised if this one comes down to the final possession.