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Through three days, the first weekend of the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament was already the most upset-laden ever. On Monday, Oregon's beatdown of Iowa set the tournament on pace for more upheaval than ever before.
And so it followed that in Monday's second game, eighth-seeded Oklahoma came out scorching hot against No. 1 Gonzaga. The Sooners scored 17 points in four-and-a-half minutes. They drilled three 3-pointers in quick succession. They snatched an eight-point lead. Point guard Austin Reaves scooped in circus shots.
Oklahoma played fearlessly and intelligently. It used high ball screens to get Gonzaga big Drew Timme switched onto Reaves. Reaves attacked the mismatch, and worked magic at the rim.
The Sooners did just about everything right, at least early on.
And none of it mattered.
Because Gonzaga was, and is, just too damn good.
Gonzaga storms past Oklahoma
Very few contenders have looked impervious to lower seeds through two rounds in this Tournament of the Upset. Three of the top seven teams – and five of the top 11 – are already out. Among those remaining, Houston and Arkansas have survived scares. Top-seeded Michigan looks extremely beatable.
And then there are the Zags, the wire-to-wire No. 1, the betting favorite, the most talented team in the country. They cruised past Oklahoma, 87-71. They still haven't lost this season. Heck, they still haven't won by less than 10 points since December 2.
They took Oklahoma's punches, and barely flinched. By the three-minute mark in the first half, they'd pulled out to a double-digit lead. Five-star frosh Jalen Suggs energized them.
Timme, an All-American, was crafty as ever in the paint. He finished with 30 points and 13 boards.
The Sooners hung around, and actually cut the lead to nine with less than three minutes remaining in the second half.
But no matter how well they played, no matter how hard they fought, no matter how little Reaves' confidence wavered, they never looked even remotely capable of winning the game. Gonzaga was, and is, too well-rounded; too skilled; too well-coached, too efficient in transition, with too many different ways to score.
Gonzaga cements itself as a clear favorite
You don't win a national title by dispatching No. 8 seeds, and the Zags still have plenty of work to do. Oregon looms in the bottom half of their region. There will be tougher tasks than Monday's. A couple games may even be decided by single digits. Maybe.
But they are the undisputed title favorite. They're +150 at BetMGM – an implied title probability of 40%. No other team's odds are greater than 20%. We're approaching "Gonzaga over the field" territory. And upsets elsewhere have only solidified its place atop the sport.
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