North Carolina -4.5 vs. Marquette: I absolutely, abso-smurfly cannot get a good read on this game. The points almost seem perfect here. And what do we really have in Marquette? Do we even know? They semi-limped into the tournament, but then beat Xavier and Syracuse - two pretty good teams. I can only come back to what I know, and that's how Marquette is mainly a perimeter oriented team who beat two other perimeter oriented teams. That's a mark against them since Carolina is very solid in the paint with Henson and Zeller. Also going against Marquette is that the Heels are one of the hottest teams in college right now, and there last, and maybe most impressive win came over Washington, another perimeter oriented team. Since I've locked myself in wagering on every game I'll throw one unit on UNC here, but overall I'd rather just stay away. That includes that over/under 149.5. It's just too high, but not so high that I'd bet on it. Overall I hate this game.
Ohio State -6 vs. Kentucky: Conversely to the one above, this is the game I'm most confident in for a myriad of reasons, and that's not even counting the fact that the Buckeyes have been runnin' and jumpin' all over people's heads so far in this tournament.
Reason #1 would be the coaching. Recruiting-wise, Thad Matta vs. John Calipari may be a battle of 1a and 1b with no correct answer, but gameplanning wise and in-game adjustment wise Matta blows him out of the water. I talked a bit in yesterday's post how I got too cute with my bracket picks and backed poor game coaches even though I know better and they all came back to bite me in the ass. I'm not making that mistake again.
Reason #2 would be how this Kentucky team, and Calipari's teams in general, succeed best when they can use their elite athleticism against teams that can't compete in that area. I was actually expecting to be picking Kentucky to go out early this year, but seeing their matchups were against Princeton and West Virginia picking them to the Sweet 16 is one of the few things I got right. But now going against the Buckeyes they won't be seeing any slow white dudes or whatever Joel Mazzulla is, this Ohio State team might be the most athletic team they've faced this year. Terrence Jones will still have an edge on Jared Sullinger - and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him get the better of that match-up - but the Buckeyes or even or better everywhere else.
Reason #3 would be how Ohio State has been runnin' and jumpin' all over people's heads this whole tournament. Take how they're playing, the points I made above, and a little reminder that Ohio State is an elite (top 10 def. efficiency) defensive team (Reason #4) and this could be a blood bath. Oh yeah, Kentucky's faced two other top 10 defensive squads, that they've given the Wildcats two of their eight losses this year (Reason #5). I'll be going with Ohio State big for six units, and I'm throwing a unit on the over 140, just because Ohio State might very well get to 140 by themselves.
Kansas -10.5 vs. Richmond: At first glance this one is tough and my first impression is that isn't 10.5 points an awful lot for a sweet 16 game? I mean like, a ton when two teams that are obviously playing well are involved? I know Richmond's second win was over a 13 seed but Morehead was still the same team that beat Louisville and the Spiders beat them in impressive fashion. The Spiders have played one team comparable to Kansas this year, Purdue, and beat them on a neutral floor - that bodes very well for Richmond. They are also a good shooting team, and if Kansas has one weakness - and they don't - it's defending the jump shot. Richmond is also solid at defending the shot, so they may be able to slow Kansas's incredible offensive efficiency and keep this one close. Nebraska actually has a similar profile to Richmond in terms of field goal defense and tempo, and they were able to keep the game within 3 and hold them under 65 points in one of their meetings - and Richmond is much better in all facets than Nebraska. That all adds up to enough for me to go with Richmond and the points for two units. I'm not touching the over/under because just as likely as the Jayhawks getting held down is them dropping a hunny all by themselves.
Florida State -3.5 vs. VCU: Ernest Hemingway wrote "Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee" and I'm pretty sure he was talking about Virginia Commonwealth because this ride is about to come to a screeching halt. Actually your opinion on this game basically comes down to one question, "Do you believe in a team's whole body of work or do you think a team can completely flip the script for a few short weeks?"
VCU was always a good team, but they basically were a poor shooting team who was reliant on long-twos and three-pointers but was always able to score enough points because they took great care of the basketball. The taking care of the basketball part is still true, but suddenly the past two games they've greatly increased their ability to put the ball in the hole. Now they come up against Florida State, an absolutely rock-solid defensive basketball team who may actually be the best statistical defense we've seen in years, and whose #1 above all defensive strength is forcing their opponents to take, and miss, difficult twos and threes.
I know you're wondering how they were able to shred Purdue and besides the obvious (missing Kelsey Barlow) they other key here is that although Purdue ranks as a very good defensive team, they don't do anything defensively off the charts well - they're just very good at every part of defense. FSU, on the other hand, is simply off the charts good at making you miss shots. They aren't great at causing turnovers, they don't limit opponent offensive rebounds particularly well, and they don't really keep their opponents off the free throw line - but they are absolutely positively great at making opponents take bad shots and miss.
Overall Purdue might be the better defensive team, but this match-up is absolutely perfect for Florida State, and a complete buzzsaw for the newest little engine that could. And then couldn't. Going with Florida State here for 4 units. I'm also tossing a unit on the under 132 because I think there's a chance FSU keeps VCU in the fifties and they're offensively challenged enough where they couldn't possibly get to 70, but I'm limiting it to a unit because VCU seems like that annoying kind of team that will keep fouling even when they're down double-digits with 20 seconds left. Also known as under-killers.
Good luck to all. Good or bad, I'll be back to break down some weekend action. Unless I get too drunk at our fantasy baseball draft.