Wisconsin vs. Duke opened at pick’em and hasn’t moved. So like the last major championship in North American sports, the Super Bowl, it comes down to picking the straight up winner to cash a ticket.
This has the potential to be one of the all-time classics. Two #1 seeds that are both playing out of this world.
Duke has cruised to the Final, throttling Gonzaga and Michigan State in the Elite Eight and Final Four respectively. They’ve toyed with very good teams.
Wisconsin has had about as an impressive tourney run as I can remember. After their tourney opener, every time they hit the court, the Badgers faced a top-tier program. From Oregon in the Round of 32, a talented UNC team in the Sweet 16, followed by a great Arizona team in the Elite Eight, they were challenged.
And then that happened….down goes Kentucky. The Badgers handled a 38-0 Wildcats team in one of the most entertaining college games I’ve seen the last few years.
I’m really looking forward to the expected Kaminsky vs. Okafor battle and the Dekker vs. Winslow matchup.
Okafor will be better at the next level, up in the pros, but right now, I give Kaminsky the edge and like him to have yet another “Tournament MVP” type of performance.
This should be a back and forth thriller from the tip-off. Both are playing great ball at both ends of the court. Duke’s become an elite defensive team, while still being so tough to handle offensively. Wisconsin’s D has been out of this world, and it’s had to be, considering the Murderer’s Row they’ve had to run through to get here. Offensively, it’s all about the efficiency. This team is mature, skilled and battle-tested.
Battle-tested in a way that Duke isn’t. The Blue Devils have yet to face a lineup like this in the tourney.
I like the Badgers’ experience and discipline to give them just enough of an edge to win the championship.
Wisconsin at Pick is my play.
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I liked this play more on Wednesday and Thursday than I do this morning. But here goes…..
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky Final Four Pick
Wisky and the points looked good to me the moment this matchup was set, but the more time that passes, the more I break the game down, the more my conviction weakens.
I thought this article was going to be a smooth piece to put together, but that hasn’t been the case.
I’m still playing the Badgers, as I originally planned, but building the case hasn’t been the cakewalk I felt it would be.
One check on the Wisconsin side of the ledger is the watching what Notre Dame was able to do. Not only can Wisky duplicate that strategy if they choose, but they can do it better (spread out the Kentucky bigs, pulling them out. Feed Kaminsky inside and when it doesn’t go to Kaminsky, hit the outside shots).
Oh, and Kaminsky and Dekker don’t need to be under the basket to hit shots – they can hurt you from all over.
But on the flip side of that Notre Dame contest, they didn’t do Wisconsin any favors with that two-point loss. Kentucky was pushed to the brink and survived – forget about any edge Wisky might have had facing a very young team flirting with over-confidence. The Fighting Irish received that benefit. It won’t happen again.
With future NBA talent all over the court for Coach Calipari, the Wildcats are going to create major problems for one of the most disciplined, fundamentally sound teams that I’ve watched the last few years.
The talk about this being one of the best college lineups ever, says it all. They are the best team in college basketball.
But I still see a close game. Look for Wisconsin to execute the gameplan, and even if things aren’t clicking as they hoped, their discipline, ability to hang on to the ball and limit points off the transition, limit free points at the stripe and their experience will guide them.
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky Pick:
The play is on the Wisconsin Badgers to cover the five points.
As you already know, I’ve got Duke filling one slot in the Championship matchup. But covering those five points, that’s another story altogether.
Both sides can point to a commitment on the defensive side of the ball for this #7 vs. #1 Final Four battle.
The Blue Devils weren’t fussed by the challenge of stifling Gonzaga, who were the #1 team in the country in field goal and three-point percentage. When it was time for the Zags to turn it up, Duke responded, holding them to a paltry four points in the final seven minutes of their Elite Eight match.
If Duke brings that defense to this game, the paths to victory for Michigan State get real narrow.
With offensive efficiency under the spotlight, Duke’s options create issues for Izzo. They don’t have the bigs to throw at Okafor all game and they are going to have to double him. Not at the start, but rest assured, it is going to happen. And when it does, Okafor will dish to the open guy, giving Duke its open shots.
Okafor’s been held in check the last two, resulting in a sort of “pick your poison” scenario, as Winslow went off at both ends while the big guy got all that attention.
It’s a key matchup the Spartans will struggle with.
The points are tempting, very tempting. But I think Duke pulls away late and covers the five points. Duke’s D can handle Michigan State, but despite how well the Spartan D has played this last while, the Blue Devil offensive options present too many problems.
Although I do so reluctantly, I am playing the Blue Devils (but the dog is a lot more appealing in the second game – write-up to be posted sometime soon).
Omnipresent Duke have long established themselves as one of the top programs in college basketball. Gonzaga are working on a resume that they hope can land them in those “best programs in the country” conversations.
A win today will definitely make the Bulldogs Linkedin profile pop.
In this matchup, Duke has the legacy, Gonzaga has the “on-court” experience. Duke doesn’t feel like they accomplished anything, while Gonzaga are on the verge of uncharted territory. Coach K has been to the Elite Eight 14 times (most of any current coach), Mark Few has been to the Elite Eight…I’m not sure, but I know it’s a heck of a lot less than 14.
But don’t think for a minute for the Blue Devils aren’t hungry. As referenced above, this group isn’t satisfied and feel no sense they’ve done anything special, as they’re judged by Duke standards – which are exceedingly high. They’re as hungry to move on as the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga vs. Duke Pick:
With an experienced group, I don’t see Gonzaga getting overwhelmed by the moment, but it is BIG for this program. Duke are playing their best basketball of the season and look like they could win it all. Offensively, they’re going to create problems for the Bulldogs, problems that I’m not sure Few and his crew can work out.
These are two very good teams, but I’ll give the edge to Coach K and his troops.
I’m going to put my trust in Pitino. His record in this tournament when he’s had several days to prep goes beyond impressive ( I’m too lazy to do the Thesaurus thing, so let’s just leave it at “beyond impressive”).
Pitino doesn’t lose these Sweet Sixteen matchups – or more accurately, he rarely goes down to defeat, boasting an 11-1 mark in this round the 12 times he’s guided one of his teams here.
Clearly it’s not all about Pitino and prep, as he’s often arrived for those games with the better team and an expectation of winning. Which is what he does.
The Sweet 16 has been very sweet for Pitino
NC State tripped up Villanova in the round of 32. I know everyone is talking about the job the Wolfpack did defensively, holding ‘Nova to a putrid 31% from the field. Fair enough. But I watched that game and spent most it shaking my head at how a #1 seed could panic that easily, playing right into the hands of their less-talented opponent.
The Wildcats were making dumb decisions all over the court. Once the upset was in play, every time Villanova got the ball it was like Greg Norman with a Sunday lead at Augusta. I can still hear the coughing.
This isn’t a great Louisville team, make no mistake, but they caught a break getting to face the Wolfpack in this round. I don’t see them squandering it.
Yes, I have some anxiety around freshman guard Quentin Snider holding up under the pressure (both the mental pressure and the actual pressure from NC State). He’s had to step in after Chris Jones’ off-court activities proved to be too much for even a big program like Louisville to hide.
But the kid played like a champ vs. Northern Iowa, turning the ball over but once. I don’t care if he doesn’t score. If he hangs on to the ball and makes smart plays, the Cardinals should be headed for the Elite Eight.
Kaminsky hangs around for another year, the Badgers grab a 1-seed, face UNC in the Sweet 16 and move on to the Elite Eight and then the Final Four and on to the Championship game and then Frank cuts down the net after the big win….hold on a sec. That might be the storyline Kaminsky had in mind when he hung around for this season, but this is going to be a battle.
The Badgers do protect the ball so well and are efficient when they head down the court. Without those transition points, the Tar Heels could struggle, but we still think they have enough talent and scoring to fight through and keep it close.
The annual Xavier March Madness fun comes to an end on Thursday. Gotta give it up for the Musketeers though, as they love to give their fans a spring thrill.
But it is worth noting, Xavier haven’t played anyone yet that wasn’t a favorable matchup. Clearly that changes on Thursday. Arizona’s too loaded everywhere for this to be an upset. Arizona heads though to the Elite Eight and has a decent chance of covering double digits, but we won’t be laying the points.
Everyedge Lean: Arizona moves on, and likely does in convincing fashion, but not loving either side on the spread.
Gonzaga catches a break getting UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen. It’s not a great matchup for the Bruins, but we don’t think they’ll get steamrolled by this ‘Zag offense. Gonzaga goes through, but UCLA acquits themselves well while bowing out.
Finally. After knocking on the Jayhawks’ door for years, with no answer, Wichita State took an axe and busted the door in (metaphorically speaking of course).
When the Shockers clawed their way to that win over the Hoosiers on Friday, it was their “Here’s Johnny” moment.
Here’s Wichita State
Kansas can’t hide behind the door any longer.
After years of pretending not to know them at those NCAA cocktail receptions, of forgetting to invite them to neighborhood block parties and explaining away no response to emails by muttering about new “spam” settings and “junk folders” – the gigs up.
The NCAA Tournament Committee accomplished something Wichita State hasn’t been able to arrange for 23 years; a matchup with Kansas.
And the timing couldn’t be better for the Shockers, because they might be the better team right now (although I have a bit more to say about that).
A Shocker win today won’t be a shocker at all (yeah, I know, a weak line, but when it’s that easy and obvious I feel obligated to toss it in somewhere, so bear with me).
This group at Wichita State are maybe the most cohesive unit in Div 1 hoops, with tons of tournament experience and all they do is go out and win games (this program has only been on the losing side of a handful of games over the last three years).
The line has been steadily moving to Wichita State, with Pinnacle Sports currently sitting at the Shockers -1.
It opened Kansas -1.5.
(You can check all the updated lines and the line history for every game with the Everyedge NCAA Tournament Odds Feed).
Kansas didn’t come into the tournament in top form, but did look good in their opener (while Wichita State struggled).
And if you take into account how the Big 12 have fared so far, which has been dreadful, that doesn’t bode well for the Jayhawks tonight.
But I still give the edge to Kansas. They’ve played the tougher schedule all year (facing 20 tournament teams vs. Wichita’s five), they’re longer and I expect Perry Ellis to be a real factor; as he gets healthier, he’ll play more minutes and will create matchup issues.
It’s been a long time coming for Wichita State and they’re primed to give Kansas all they can handle, but I still feel the Jayhawks have enough of the small edges and enough battle-testing to get the win.
It opened at -5, but Butler money quickly edged it down to 4.5, where it stayed for about 24 hours before dropping again to the current line of -3.5.
Something occurred to me though as I was breaking this game down….I hope Touchdown Jesus is a basketball fan. At least for today. I hope he’s not the petty-type; not wanting to share attention with the b-ball program.
I hope TD Jesus is a b-ball fan
I actually can’t remember writing up a Fighting Irish basketball play. I know they’ve had some success on the hardcourt over the years, but like most of us, I still think of Notre Dame as a football school.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few games at Notre Dame Stadium, seeing TD Jesus up close. In all that time spent on campus, I can’t recall a single person ever mentioning the basketball team…but alas, today, it’s all about that other program.
Hopefully, Touchdown Jesus has my back as I make this play:
I’m in at -3.5, putting a unit on the Fighting Irish.
However, for anyone looking to follow this play, I’d hold off on booking it until later in the afternoon. I still think this number has a good chance of dipping down to 3 at some point today. And if it does turn and start heading the other way, I’m still comfortable playing ND laying the 4.
You can check all the updated lines and the line history for every game with the Everyedge NCAA Tournament Odds Feed.
The Butler money pushing this line down is largely a reaction to Notre Dame’s unimpressive performance over NE. I’m not concerned…at all.
I’ll happily take the extra line value on the better team, who I’m fully expecting will be much better than they showed last time out. Look for a complete game from the favorite tonight. And if they do come out focused, I just can’t see Butler keeping this close.
I don’t see Butler being able to handle Notre Dame’s offense. Nor do I see the Irish struggling when Butler has the ball. That’s a tough combo for the Bulldogs.
Butler vs. Notre Dame Pick
Notre Dame at -3.5 is a solid value play.
The ND offense should wear them down with an attack that comes from all over the floor.
We picked up a nice win yesterday to start the tournament, tapping Georgia State as our one play. We liked them getting the 9-points, but certainly didn’t call for the outright upset (in fact, I think we had a line that went something like this, “Can Georgia State win this game? No!”)…but nonetheless we booked a unit.
Who doesn’t love Izzo? (quiet down Ann Arbor)
Georgia vs. Michigan State Pick
Izzo!!! Love Izzo. Who doesn’t (Ann Arbor residents aside).
Michigan State bullied their way to the final of the Big 10 tourney, before getting clipped in overtime by top-seeded Wisconsin. It was an impressive performance, but somewhat expected from Izzo and MSU, who are used to dialing things up come March (they’ve only been on the sidelines for one Sweet Sixteen since 2007).
This isn’t a Spartan team with a lot of depth, but with three leaders who’ve been down this road before (senior guards Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, and junior Denzel Balentine) and Izzo coaching them up as always, they could bust up a few brackets with another deep run.
We’re not big fans of the Bulldogs in this spot. They’ve struggled vs. good teams all year (2-6 when facing programs who are in this spring’s tournament), including most recently getting throttled by Arkansas.
We just don’t have a lot of confidence in Georgia being able to bring enough to the table today.
We usually don’t like laying this many points (we really like digging up underdogs with value), but we’ll take a shot on Michigan State to cover vs Georgia.