A winning day Thursday. Did I enjoy it? No. Watching your team get absolutely MURDERED in their final half of the season tends to put a damper on things. Could be worse, though. Can’t imagine being an Arizona fan and getting your heart ripped out year after year despite annually having one of the most talented teams.
UNC (-7.5) over Butler
Butler definitely has a chance to win this game if they can keep it in the halfcourt. They do a good job of limiting transition opportunities for opponents and UNC is probably the number one team in the country where that trait is most necessary to garner a victory. However, that’s just part of the battle. The Bulldogs are pretty solid on the defensive glass, but I’m skeptical of their ability to stop the Heels in that department. There’s also the issue of their interior defense being pretty weak and the overwhelming amount of size/athleticism that UNC brings at you. Butler’s no slouch themselves offensively, but I think their issues defensively in this game are going to put so much pressure on them to hit a bunch of shots. It’s possible, but if you’re playing the odds, I’d say it’s much more likely that UNC dominates the paint than Butler being red hot from three.
South Carolina (+3.5) over Baylor
Tough one to predict here. For one, there’s glaring issues for each side. Baylor’s not great with pressure and USC is great at applying pressure. USC struggles to clean up their consistently great defensive possessions and Baylor’s one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, although that one is somewhat negated by the sides being reversed at the other end. Baylor’s probably going to zone a lot and how do the Gamecocks handle it? They’re not a great shooting team, but frankly I just trust Frank Martin a little more to have a better gameplan and it’s not like Scott Drew will be the first to throw a zone at USC. If the Gamecocks aren’t creating turnovers and getting some easy run outs, things might be bleak. But I’ll still take them because 1) I know they’ll guard their asses off and 2) I’m a big Thornwell guy and not as high on the merits of Manu Lecomte.
Kentucky (+1) over UCLA
Feels a lot like the Michigan-Oregon game in the sense you can break it down all you want to, but it’s probably going to be close for 40 minutes and it just comes down to who makes one or two more plays down the stretch. I mean, UCLA did kind of kick Kentucky’s ass in Lexington, but that was almost four months ago and I put very little value in that game. The Bruins still aren’t very good defensively, but they’re just so overwhelming offensively that it rarely matters. With that said, UK does a great job running people off the three-point line and they’re one of the few backcourts in the nation to be quick enough, athletic enough, and prepared enough to actually present issues for the UCLA shooters. The game really might just come down to how hot Malik Monk is outside. The Cats will be able to break down the Bruins a bit with ball screens and sheer quickness, but they’ll need to make UCLA pay by knocking down some shots too. X-factor along with that issue is Derek Willis. If he can hit a couple, the Cats become pretty much impossible to guard.
Florida (-1) over Wisconsin
Would love to be wrong here, but Florida’s length, quickness, and athleticism is problematic for the Badgers. This is one where the Gators could really use Egbunu to guard Happ, but they’ve still got enough to disrupt things. Sure, Bronson Koenig could hit a bunch of shots off the dribble, but Florida has so many options to throw at him. Wisconsin isn’t a turnover prone team, which will be key to limit UF transition opportunities and really it’s an absolute necessity for them that that trend continues. The Badgers are a great defensive team themselves, but I think they’re going to have some issues with containing the quick Gator guards. If this thing turns in to a free throw contest, hold your butts if you’re a Badger fan.