Notre Dame (+3) over West Virginia
The Mountaineers are in real trouble if they can’t turn teams over and nobody turns it over less than the Irish. The good news for WVU is that they might be able to find some success with their halfcourt offense against a perfectly average Notre Dame defense. If the Irish can’t keep the Mounts off the offensive glass, it’s gonna be a long day for them.
If those two aspects play out like you’d expect, it should be a very close game. For me, I just like Notre Dame’s team more. They’ve got more offensive playmakers and they can make more things happen late in the game when it’s tight.
Wisconsin (+6) over Villanova
I think the Badgers have a very legitimate shot at winning this game. I’ve said before in one of my 100 pieces on this tournament that Wisconsin will be very comfortable in a grind-it-out game with the Wildcats. It’s tough for anybody to stop Josh Hart, but Wisconsin has a few viable options to keep him contained. I think the Badgers have a fairly sizable advantage on the glass. The X-factor for me will come down to Nova’s perimeter shooting. It sticks out like a sore thumb in this game and if the Cats are hitting at a high rate, it’s probably over.
Northwestern (+11) over Gonzaga
I don’t have a great feeling either way on this one. I think Gonzaga is a lot better, but they haven’t necessarily played like it a lot lately. It’s going to be a slowly played game for the most part and I think that always gives the underdog a better chance to stay in it. The crispness the Zags were playing with offensively for 3 months has kind of dwindled, especially their shooting. Bryant McIntosh pushed me over the edge for Northwestern in this one. Some guys just play better when the moment’s bigger and he’s one of them. NGW is a tough match for him, but I think he’ll make enough plays for Northwestern to stay in it.
Xavier (+6) over Florida State
For three reasons:
- Chris Mack >>> Leonard Hamilton
- X is going to force FSU to play in the halfcourt
- Trevon Bluiett
MTSU (+4) over Butler
I thought Minnesota could guard this MTSU team and that didn’t turn out to be the case. It helped that the Blue Raiders had one of their better offensive rebounding and three-point shooting games, but that’s another story for another day. I think MTSU’s combo of Upshaw and Williams is going to be a real problem for Butler’s frontcourt. Wideman, Chrabascz, and Fowler play hard, but they’re at a total mismatch athletically against those two Blue Raiders.
Saint Mary’s (+5) over Arizona
Arizona’s side has been getting pounded since it opened at 2.5. I’d value it as more of a pick’em myself, so here we are. I’ve always been a big believer of the Gaels generally, I just didn’t love the VCU matchup for them and they still were in control the whole way. Arizona has the edge in raw talent and athleticism, but I don’t see a clear advantage for them in this one.
Florida (-2) over Virginia
I honestly have no idea on this one to be totally honest. I originally took Virginia in the bracket, but I don’t know. Their offense stinks and their lack of execution against an average UNCW defense doesn’t give me faith that they can get much done against Florida’s pressure. Yes, Virginia defends really well too, but the Gators just have more quickness/athleticism to break things down and score when it’s needed.
EDIT: Turns out I picked Florida in the bracket. So in other words, I agree with me from Wednesday.
Iowa State (+1) over Purdue
*Very long, very exasperated sigh*
I try to keep a level head about Purdue. I know them better than any other team. That goes both ways.
This one presents “the contrast of styles”. Purdue’s size against Iowa State’s small ball/versatility. Generally I’ve found that it doesn’t favor Purdue when they’re playing small, but talented teams. Why? Because those teams are quick and athletic and they turn Purdue over and mitigate their size. Once the Boilers have to try and defend smaller, skilled teams in the halfcourt, it’s a disaster. Haas and Swanigan struggle in ball screen action and it’s not like they have a bunch of super quick guards to disrupt the ball handlers and, in my eyes, they’re going against the best in the country in Monte Morris.
If I’m being honest, I hope I’m ridiculously wrong on this pick, but…I really feel like I’m going to be a sad, belligerent drunk starting around midnight tomorrow.