The Ohio State Buckeyes and Gonzaga Bulldogs came away with sizable triumphs in Thursday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament’s East bracket. Why have we decided to add a play on the spread to our NCAA Basketball picks?

Saturday afternoon’s third round at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center has the two foes clashing, with oddsmakers expecting a closer battle between the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds, respectively.

Sportsbooks opened Ohio State as a seven-point favorite, remaining unchanged after initial NCAA Basketball betting action took place. Betting shops first set the ‘total’ at 134.5, with early action on the ‘over’ driving the digits north one point to 135.5.

Buckeyes pull away from Loyola 

Ohio State notched a 78-59 victory as a 17 ½-point favorite in Thursday’s win against the Loyola Greyhounds, cashing tickets for my followers who laid the big number. The Buckeyes held Loyola to 35.2 percent field shooting, while outrebounding the Greyhounds, 46-23.

Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas notched team-highs of 31 points and 12 boards, recording his third double-double in nine games. Thomas’ mate Aaron Craft hit 6-of-6 free throws en route to finishing with four assists and three steals. 

The contest’s combined 137 points jumped above its closing ‘total’ of 131 ½, making the ‘over’ 7-1 in the Buckeyes’ last eight games. Ohio State connected 44.8 percent of its field buckets, including a pair of late three-point plunges from guard William Buford for a ‘front door’ pointspread cover. 

Zags cruise past WVU

Gonzaga began this year’s NCAA Tournament with Thursday’s 77-54 victory as a 1 ½-point underdog against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Bulldogs shot 56 percent from the floor, including 9-of-17 beyond the arc. 

Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre and Gary Bell logged 14 points each, while uniting for 10 of their squad’s 30 rebounds. Bulldogs guard Kevin Pangos notched a team-high five assists, hitting 5-of-7 field buckets to finish with 13 points. 

The battle’s combined 131 points dipped below the closing ‘total’ of 133 ½, bringing the ‘under’ to 8-1 in the Bulldogs’ last nine ‘board’ games. Gonzaga held West Virginia to 32.7 percent field shooting, including a sparse 3-of-17 from downtown. 

Back Gonzaga plus the points

Gonzaga vs Ohio StateSaturday’s tip is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. (ET), with CBS providing the national television coverage. 

I am adding Gonzaga plus the points among my NCAA Basketball picks in this spot, feeling the number was set too high by the oddsmakers. While I enjoyed a cashed ticket with the Buckeyes on Thursday night, Gonzaga’s performance against WVU warrants enough respect in this battle to shift my support.

The Bulldogs have not been this large of an underdog all year, bringing some solid value in what shapes up as a back-and-forth battle. Gonzaga’s victory in Thursday’s affair brought the team to 5-1 ATS in its last six neutral-site contests and a 5-2 spread mark in its last seven battles against foes with winning records.

Ohio State will be challenged by the Zags’ high octane, with Mark Few’s crew breaking the 70-point barrier in 13 of its last 15 games. The Buckeyes shot a subpar 32.9 percent from three-point land during the regular season, ranking 9th out of the Big Ten’s 12 squads. 

Buford’s late three-point attempts in Thursday’s ‘garbage time’ for the Buckeyes looked like a desperate sign of needing confidence back in finding the rims from long range. The senior went 0-for-4 day beyond the arc in Sunday’s conference championship defeat to Michigan State.

Gonzaga entered postseason play as the West Coast Conference’s top three-point shooting squad, with the trio of Bell, Pangos, and Harris all topping 40 percent beyond the arc. Look for enough clutch buckets to be knocked down by the Zags here again, keeping the ‘back door’ open in the second half en route to cashing tickets.

My Pick: Gonzaga & the Points