Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

S16 - Thursday's Early Tips

Brackets | Matchups | Betting Angles

West Region (Anaheim, CA)
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (CBS, 7:09 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Gonzaga -7 ½, 146 ½

It’s rare to see two teams hook up in the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons. It’s even rarer to witness that matchup in a location one hour away from the previous meeting as Florida State knocked off Gonzaga, 75-60 as a six-point underdog at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Now, the venue moves to the Honda Center in Anaheim as the Bulldogs try to get revenge and avoid being the first top seed to lose in this year’s Big Dance.

Florida State (29-7 SU, 17-18-1 ATS) fell short to Duke in the ACC championship game, but still closed out the season by winning 14 of 16 games to grab a fourth seed in the NCAA tournament. The Seminoles beat the likes of Virginia Tech twice, Virginia, Louisville, and Syracuse during this stretch, but compiled a 4-6 ATS record in the final 10 games prior to the tournament.

The Seminoles reached the Sweet 16 for the third time under head coach Leonard Hamilton as FSU knocked out 13th-seeded Vermont and upstart Murray State, who was listed as a 12-seed. The ‘Noles held off the Catamounts in the opening round, 76-69 as FSU failed to cash as nine-point favorites. The two teams were tied at the half before the Seminoles outscored UVM, 49-42 in the second half, as Mfiondu Kabengele scored 21 points off the bench for Florida State.

In the second round game against Murray State, many people kept an eye on potential top-three lottery pick Ja Morant, who was coming off a triple-double in a blowout win over Marquette. However, FSU ran past Murray State, 90-62 to easily cover as 4 ½-point favorites, in spite of Morant posting a game-high 28 points. The Seminoles played each of the first two games without senior forward Phil Cofer (7.4 ppg), who missed the opener with a foot injury, but then sat out the Murray State victory following the death of his father. Cofer will not travel with the team to Anaheim, as FSU seeks its second straight Elite 8 appearance.

Gonzaga (32-3 SU, 22-13 ATS) cruised through West Coast Conference play with a perfect 16-0 record, while being listed as a double-digit favorite 14 times (7-7 ATS). The Bulldogs were on the verge of another WCC tournament title before getting tripped up by Saint Mary’s in the championship as 15-point favorites in a 60-47 setback. Despite the poor showing, the Bulldogs locked up a top seed in the tournament for the second time in three seasons.

In the opening round game against Fairleigh Dickinson, the Bulldogs barely broke a sweat in an 87-59 blowout to cash as 28 ½-point favorites. Gonzaga jumped out to a 53-17 halftime advantage and never looked back to capture its 11th consecutive NCAA tournament first round victory. Two days later, Gonzaga put together another strong opening 20 minutes as the Bulldogs led Baylor, 39-23 at halftime before eliminating the Bears, 83-71. Baylor covered as 14 ½-point underdogs, but the Bears couldn’t stop Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, who hit 15-of-18 shots from the floor and scored 36 points.

The Bulldogs own a 3-1 SU/ATS record as a single-digit favorite this season with the lone loss coming to Tennessee in early December. The Seminoles have covered in five of eight opportunities as an underdog this season, while FSU has posted a 4-1-1 ATS record in its last six NCAA tournament contests since 2018.

South Region (Louisville, KY)
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 2 Tennessee (TBS, 7:29 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Tennessee -1 ½, 146 ½

Tennessee (31-5 SU, 17-17-1 ATS) spent most of conference season as the top-ranked team in the country, but road losses to Kentucky and LSU in February knocked the Volunteers out of the #1 spot. The Vols failed to capture the regular season SEC title in spite of a 15-3 record, while getting blown out by Auburn in the conference championship game by 20 points.

Rick Barnes’ club began SEC play by covering seven of its first 10 games, but the Volunteers went 2-6 ATS down the stretch. Tennessee cashed in its first two SEC tournament victories over Mississippi State and Kentucky before losing to Auburn as 4 ½-point favorites. Things did not ease up in the tournament for Tennessee, who escaped with their lives in both wins.

The Volunteers built what seemed to be a comfortable 12-point halftime lead over Colgate in the first round, but the Patriot League champions rallied back to grab a 52-50 advantage with 11:37 minutes remaining. However, Tennessee went back in front and eventually pulled away for a 77-70 win. The Vols failed to cash as hefty 17 ½-point favorites, but advanced past the first round for the second straight season.

Last season, Tennessee was shocked by eventual Final Four participant Loyola-Chicago in the round of 32 in a 63-62 defeat as a number three seed. The Volunteers wanted to avoid that same fate as a two-seed this time around as Tennessee jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable 25-point cushion against Iowa. The Hawkeyes rallied to beat Cincinnati in the first round and pulled off another amazing comeback by forcing overtime after trailing, 44-19. Tennessee advanced in spite of melting down by bouncing Iowa, 83-77, but failed again to cover, this time as 7 ½-point favorites.

Purdue (25-9 SU, 19-14-1 ATS) as looked as impressive as any team so far after closing the regular season by winning 14 of 16 games. The Boilermakers lasted only one game in the Big 10 tournament after getting stunned by Minnesota as 9 ½-point favorites in a 75-73 defeat, but Purdue is still going in the Big Dance while the Gophers are sitting at home.

Matt Painter’s squad took care of a tough Old Dominion team in the first round, 61-48 as 12 ½-point favorites. The Boilermakers’ defense limited the Monarchs to 27% shooting from the floor, while All-Big 10 first teamer Carsen Edwards scored 26 points. Purdue put together another strong effort in knocking out defending champion Villanova in the second round, 87-61 as 3 ½-point favorites, as the Boilermakers led by 19 points at the half. Edwards put together his best game as a Boilermaker with 42 points, while drilling nine three-pointers.

Purdue has reached the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, but couldn’t go further than that after losing to Kansas in 2017 and Texas Tech in 2018. Tennessee beat Purdue at the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis during Thanksgiving week of 2017 in overtime, 78-75 as 8 ½-point underdogs. In the only two meetings between these schools (including the one in 2009), the games have been decided by a total of four points.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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