My outlook heading into the sweet 16; Two brackets gone miserably wrong, and one with plenty of hope. I never expect to win in the pick’ems, so I usually just root more for entertaining action. In the midst of all these games I realized I hadn’t done a preview for the Vegas lines in awhile, and what better time than during the always entertaining March Madness. Anyways, here’s how I see the eight games playing out.
Cornell (+10) Over Kentucky
Kentucky has cruised through the tourney so far beating both teams they played to a pulp by 29 and 30 points. They have the most “NBA” talent of any team left, and have shown why they are a #1 seed. They destroyed a sixteen seed, and a slumping nine seed. Their reward is to play the Cinderella Cornell squad who has one less tourney win (6) than Kentucky has championships (7). I could see Cornell covering the spread if they keep raining threes like they have, but their main concern will be to not let Kentucky run wild. This is much easier said than done. If their zone somehow slows the cats down, then we could see this Cinderella make some noise. I can’t believe some of the “experts” are picking them to win. I wouldn’t go that far, but maybe a single digit win for Kentucky.
Ohio State (-4.5) Over Tennessee
I’ve been repping the Buckeyes pretty hard since I have them winning it all in my one bracket of hope. I probably just jinxed them, but watching Evan Turner nearly put up a triple double in their last game has me thinking there’s a chance he could single handedly get them to the final four. The Buckeyes will need to avoid making the silly turnovers like they did against Georgia Tech which was the sole reason the game even close. The Vols don’t boast a high powered offense, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can create some easy hoops with Ohio States’ mistake prone lapses during games. If this game is close, it will be because Turner was held in check, and that should be priority number one for the Vols.
West Virginia (-3.5) Over Washington
Although I’ll be rooting for an upset in this game, it’s pretty tough banking on that to happen. West Virginia is a MUCH more physical team than the Huskies first two opponents. I think the physical play will give their shooters a rough time. If Washington has any chance they will need Isiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter to play flawlessly. West Virginia is somewhat offensively challenged, but there’s good news for the Mountaineers, the Huskies are ranked 295th in free throws conceded. I see the Mountaineers being too much for the Huskies to handle.
Syracuse (-6) Over Butler
The Orange is another number one seed that has steamrolled their opponents so far. Butler is far better than Vermont and Gonzaga, so this will be their first true “test”. Syracuse is the best shooting team inside the arc, and probably won’t need their starting center Onuaku to pull out a victory. I’d give Butler more of a chance if they were a little more threatening from beyond the arc, which makes their margin for error very small.
Xavier (+5) Over Kansas State
I think K-State has an extra boost going into this weekend after seeing their home state rivals go down. They are very aggressive on the offensive glass and force a lot of turnovers. Xavier has a much more athletic squad than the Cougars first two opponents, and it will show. I see Kansas State winning in a tight one led by some big play making from Pullen. I love the scrappiness of Xavier, so I’m taking the points in what should be a great game.
Northern Iowa (+4) Over Michigan State
It’s probably not a great idea to bet against Tom Izzo, but I am. Maybe it’s not so much betting against Izzo, and more betting against them winning without the services of their best scorer and passer in Lucious. I’m not sure how UNI will handle themselves after knocking off top overall seed Kansas, and maybe their heads swelled up a little after already overachieving, but they’ve shown that they can suffocate teams defensively. They’ve also had some good breaks go their way, and have proven that they can come through with big shots in the clutch. I’ll take my chances with UNI for one more round.
It’s been a nice run for the Gaels, and they’ve made it farther than anyone thought they would, including myself. I thoroughly enjoy watching the double digit seeds celebrate, and watching a shocked St. Mary’s team walking around in a daze after the game was priceless. I think Baylor is the best team getting the least press. In my bracket of hope, I have Baylor squaring off against Ohio State in the Championship game (Not hopeful it will happen, but they are both still alive). Baylor hasn’t played their best ball in the tourney, and if they start playing the way they’ve shown they can this weekend, watch out! They also hold opposing teams to one of the lowest 2pt FG% in the NCAA, which is a reflection of their tremendous size down on the blocks. If they win, I don’t see any reason they can’t beat Duke.
Duke (-7) Over Purdue
The Blue Devils are taking advantage of the easiest bracket in the tourney, and it’s not getting much harder playing Purdue in this round. Purdue is missing their best player (Hummel) that would make this matchup much better, but since he isn’t Duke’s size will overwhelm Purdue. I feel like Purdue got lucky against A&M, but who knows, maybe they earned it. They aren’t overwhelming offensively, so it will be interesting to see if they can hang with a Duke team that seems to be hitting their full stride. If Purdue does win, I will be happy because it would bust plenty of brackets that aren’t mine. I see most of the pressure laying on Duke’s shoulders as a heavy favorite, so hopefully they fold like the Cowboys when it matters.