March 23, 2012
Last night’s NCAA Tournament games went terribly wrong for both my picks and my bracket. I went 1-3 with my picks last night, so of course I have to try and regain some dignity with a better showing in this version. I went heavy on the Big Ten yesterday, and the pain they put me through leaves me wondering if I can trust Indiana. There are three double-digit seeds playing tonight which make things very interesting as well. Without further delay, here are my (most likely incorrect) picks for tonight.
Xavier vs. Baylor
Xavier pulled a small upset over Notre Dame to start the tournament, then took down Cinderella hopeful Lehigh in the second round. They now get their toughest test to date in Baylor, while ironically being the toughest test Baylor has faced in the NCAA Tournament as well. This game should be an absolute shootout, with both teams having scored 80 points on multiple occasions. One advantage Baylor will have is their blinding neon green uniforms they are wearing during the tournament. In all honesty though, I do think Baylor is the better team and should find a way to advance to the Elite Eight.
Ohio vs. North Carolina
Speaking of high scoring, there is only one team in the nation that has scored more PPG than North Carolina. That may take a hit this game though, with point guard Kendall Marshall expected to miss the game after having wrist surgery. Even more importantly, Ohio thrives on steals, and the Tar Heels will need to take extra care of the ball without Marshall in the game. Ohio isn’t nearly as explosive on offense, but they have proven deadly for teams like Michigan and South Florida, who have fallen on Ohio’s trip to the Sweet 16. Everyone likes to root for the underdog, but I can’t imagine Ohio making it past North Carolina. If North Carolina doesn’t come ready to play, which includes stopping D.J. Cooper, Marshall could have a lot longer to rest before their next game. While Ohio has shown that the MAC shouldn’t be taken lightly, I will take North Carolina to take care of business.
Indiana vs. Kentucky
This isn’t the final game of the night, but make no mistake about it, this game is the main event. These two historic basketball programs will give us a rematch of an amazing game earlier this season. Then unranked Indiana gave then #1 Kentucky their first (and only) loss of the regular season on a ridiculous buzzer beater, winning 73-72. Kentucky, now the overall #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, would like nothing more than to avenge that loss when it matters most. I stuck with the Big Ten all day yesterday and said I think it was the toughest conference in the nation this year. The Wildcats will truly be tested by Indiana who, sticking with the trend in all of these games, can score at will. Kentucky will need Anthony Davis to take over this game and prove why he is the best player in college basketball. I think this game will come down to the wire, but Kentucky gets the nod from me and will play in the Elite Eight.
North Carolina State vs. Kansas
With the amount of times I have mentioned high scoring teams in this column, maybe defense doesn’t win championships. North Carolina State and Kansas both average scoring in the mid 70’s, and have the ability to explode to as high as 100 in Kansas’ case. With that being said, the Jayhawks struggled mightily against Purdue in the last round, coming dangerously close to a loss. Add to that a shocking loss to VCU last NCAA Tournament, and I don’t think they will come into this game assuming anything. Nor should they, as NC State has beaten San Diego State (predicted to be a potential Cinderella) and Georgetown on their way to the Sweet 16. Kansas is in a much higher class than the two aforementioned teams, however, and will look to run the court for quick baskets on the Wolfpack. I hate to have all three high seeds lose in my picks, but I just don’t think they will win tonight. I will take Kansas and if last night was any foreshadowing, we will have a high-seeded Elite Eight!
March 22, 2012
The NCAA Tournament is back underway tonight and we will find out the first 4 teams going to the Elite 8. These games have your expected #1 seeds in Syracuse and Michigan State as well as #6 Cincinnati and #7 Florida making it further than I suspect most people had them going in their bracket. In this post I will look to predict the unpredictable and pick the winners of tonight’s games.
Wisconsin vs. Syracuse
The first of 3 Big Ten vs. Big East matchups tonight, showing how well both conferences have been doing in the tournament so far. Syracuse has continued to play dominant despite not having Fab Melo for the entire NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin showed how good they can be by beating a Vanderbilt team many people saw as a dangerous draw in this tournament. While Wisconsin has 9 losses on season, 7 came against ranked teams, and the other 2 came against Iowa, who clearly gave them matchup problems. Syracuse is a long, up-tempo team that likes to push the ball and get quick points. Wisconsin is your typical Bo Ryan team, stressing tough defense and rebounding. While Syracuse is the favorite in this game, I like Wisconsin in the upset.
Louisville vs. Michigan State
This game will be dominated by two coaches who know what it takes to win in the NCAA Tournament. Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo have been to the NCAA Tournament a combined 30 times, making the Final Four 11 times and both having won a National Championship. Michigan State has had a pretty easy road thus far as a number one seed, but both teams had a scare last round. Louisville beat New Mexico 59-56, while Michigan State needed a late run to put away St. Louis, 65-61. These two teams met in 2009 in the Elite Eight, with Michigan State winning that game 64-52. While these two teams are very different than in 2009, I still think Michigan State will win this game and send the Cardinals home sooner than they were hoping.
Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
Cincinnati wrecked a lot of brackets (including my own) when they upset Florida State on Sunday. They would shock even more people if they continued their streak with a win against Ohio State. The Buckeyes came into the season with high expectations, being ranked 3rd overall in the nation. Having to battle in the Big Ten, the toughest conference in basketball this season in my opinion, gave them a few more losses than predicted, but made them a tougher team to beat. The Bearcats will gladly accept that challenge, having beat tough teams such as Marquette and Syracuse earlier this season. However, I do think Ohio State will be going to the Elite Eight, but not without a fight.
Florida vs. Marquette
While there is no Big Ten team in this game, the Big East has yet another team playing tonight in Marquette. Marquette can score at will, averaging almost 76 ppg. Florida hasn’t been finding it hard to score either, putting up 84 in their last game against Norfolk State. Florida has 10 losses on the year, but 5 came against Top 3 opponents, so Marquette will have their hands full. Florida has won both of their NCAA Tournament games in blowout fashion, while Marquette had a big win in the first round, and a 9 point victory in their last game. That being said, Florida’s opponents were much easier in my opinion and I think Marquette is the final Elite Eight team decided tonight.