Sometimes I think the NCAA tournament sacrifices a bit of its momentum by taking three days off after the first weekend. It makes sense for travel, for keeping the games on weekends and for the 2nd chance pools, but three days is an eternity in today’s sports world. With my attention span, and with other stories developing, I have to go back and ask, “So, who’s still alive?”
There are some good Sweet 16 match-ups, but I get the feeling most people are still wondering if the Kentucky/UNC final can happen. North Carolina is possibly moving forward without point guard Kendall Marshall who broke his wrist against Creighton. Marshall had surgery, but hasn’t been ruled out for future games. I suppose he’d essentially have to play one-handed, a situation that doesn’t seem favorable, especially if UNC moves past Cinderella Ohio. Most experts think that UNC won’t be able to advance to the Final Four without Marshall contributing. If UNC has lost its status as co-favorite, the tournament is truly wide-open.
Enough of the big picture stuff, I know you are all getting ready to sprint to the window when I hand out my selections. Last week, a glittering 3-4-1 record. I blame Baylor for keeping me from my rightful place at 4-4. Here we go…
Wisconsin (+3.5) over Syracuse. Everyone is just waiting for Syracuse to lose, correct? Some feel they should have lost to UNC-Beer City USA, and without Fab Melo this team has been a ticking time bomb from the opening tip. Factor in Wisconsin’s Wes Welker-like grittiness, and Jim Boeheim’s horrid Sweet-16 record and you’ve got yourself an outright winner.
Ohio St. (-7.5) over Cincinnati. What a year it’s been in the tournament for teams from Ohio. They’re everywhere. Fitting in an election year. This line seems a bit high, but I guess these teams maybe don’t see each other enough to be bitter rivals? I’ve got to lean toward the Big Ten when making this pick, they appear to be the stronger conference this year and since the last Cincinnati player I can name is Nick Van Exel, give me the Buckeyes.
Florida (+2) over Marquette. Florida has just blown two teams out. Yes, one of those teams was Norfolk State, but they haven’t even been challenged. Marquette reminds me of a Philly school, because even the years when they are good you are never surprised when they get bounced from the tournament. Toughest game to call in the entire round, but give me Team Widow’s Peak.
Michigan St. (-5) over Louisville. How does Tom Izzo do it? Here I am, picking Missouri to advance out of a bracket that features Michigan St., a team that gets to Final Fours by accident. What do I hold against the Spartans? They’re never really exciting. They’re just almost always good. Kentucky gets John Wall and MSU gets players like Paul Davis. Louisville had a nice little run to get here, but it’s over. Izzo’s going back to another Final Four.
Indiana (+9) over Kentucky. I think the Wildcats will get revenge for their regular season loss, but I don’t see them stretching it out to double-digits. I’m really all-in on this Big-10 theory, aren’t I? My biggest concern here is fouls late in the game. The Hoosiers down eight points with six seconds left and they just keep hacking away. That can be costly. Why do college teams have to do that? An NBA team knows when to give up.
Xavier (+6) over Baylor. Where’s Xavier? That’s right, Ohio. The city of Cincinnati has two chances to get to the Elite-8. I think this is their better chance. I said I was going to give Baylor one shot and they couldn’t do it for me, so I’ve got no choice but to turn my back. Yeah, they handled Colorado with ease, but that’s Colorado. What if the shots don’t fall? Too risky to lay six points.
UNC (-11.5) over Ohio. I’m sure no one at North Carolina would say this out loud, but they must be thrilled that Ohio has come through to the Sweet 16 considering the injury to Kendall Marshall. Could Ohio be this year’s VCU? They could, but I think it’s just as likely they’re thrilled to be there and UNC opens the game with a 24-4 run. Regardless of the start, I think the Tar Heels just slowly pull away Marshall or no Marshall.
Kansas (-8.5) over NC State. If any team escaped the “3rd” round it was Kansas. How did they slip past Purdue? That effort wouldn’t give you much hope of covering a line like this, but then here we are with an 8.5 point spread. I think Purdue is better than NC State, and I think Kansas has survived their scare. There’s always at least one. The clutch win over the Boilermakers and UNC looking vulnerable should combine to breathe some life into the Jayhawks. They will roll in this one.
There we go. We’re down to eight games, spread over two days and yet they’re still starting them at 10 pm. Good times. I don’t do a second chance pools, but if I did, I’d probably stick with Kentucky and Ohio State, but switch my allegiances to Kansas and MSU. See how hopelessly predictable I am even when there are only 16 teams left? Who’s in your new Final Four?