Rick Pitino Louisville Cardinals

No. 1 Gonzaga Vs. No. 16 Southern

Gonzaga, the only team to earn 30-plus victories, and hold on to the title of No. 1 team in the country this season, begins its journey to a first-ever Final Four Thursday afternoon against Southern in Salt Lake City in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The 31-2 Bulldogs are led by Wooden Award candidate Kelly Olynyk, who averages a team-best 17.5 points on 65 percent shooting, and 7.2 rebounds per game. Slashing guard Elias Harris stalks the perimeter for Gonzaga, with 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds.

Gonzaga went a perfect 16-0 in the West Coast Conference, but may have lost out on the overall seed due to a 1-2 record against ranked opponents.

The Jaguars will make their first tournament appearance since 2006, and their eighth overall after capturing the SWAC tournament title over Prairie View A&M last week.

Senior Derick Beltran and junior Malcolm Miller each net 15 points per game, and 6’10” center Brandon Moore rips down a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game.

The game tips-off at 4:10 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by TBS, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.

The winner faces either No. 8 Pittsburgh or No. 9 Wichita State in the third round of the West Region.

Betting Odds: Gonzaga is favored by 23 points

Over/Under: 129 points

Prediction: Olynyk and Harris should control the game from the get go, and the Bulldogs will roll on to the next round.

Predicted Score: Gonzaga 70, Southern 54

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T

After a tremendous, dominating second half in the Big East final, No. 1 overall seed Louisville meets No. 16. North Carolina A&T as 26 point favorites Thursday afternoon at Rupp Arena.

The winner will face either No. 8 Colorado State or No. 9 Missouri in the third round of the Midwest Region.

The Cardinals used a blistering 56-26 second half spurt to down Syrcuse in the Big East championship game, with freshman forward Montrezl Harrell scoring a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds, and the Louisville defense forcing 19 Orange turnovers.

Leading scoring leader Russ Smith had an off-night shooting, but still clocked 10 points, and guard Peyton Siva had 11 points, with eight assists and four steals.

Center Gorqui Dieng nearly posted a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

That kind of balance might be too much for the MEAC champion Bulldogs to overcome, but adversity hasn’t stopped them at all this season. After finishing sixth in the conference standings, A&T tore through the conference tournament and eventually beat Morgan State for its first title since 1995.

Seniors Adrian Powell and Austin Witter have led the way, but freshman Bruce Beckford came up big in the Bulldogs first round 73-72 victory over Liberty, scoring 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

It was the first NCAA tournament victory for A&T in nine appearances.

The game tips-off at 6:50 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by TNT, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.

Betting Odds: Louisville is favored by 26 points

Over/Under: 124 points

Prediction: The Cardinals should overwhelm A&T from the start, and Smith will lead the way. Dieng will also have a huge game in a Lousville win.

Predicted Score: Louisville 79, North Carolina A&T 52