March 22 2018- Friday Night Sweet 16 Picks and a quick rant about the Blues
4 Gonzaga Bulldogs (-5.5) vs. 8 Florida State Seminoles
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have not made this tournament easy for themselves. Twice letting half time leads evaporate quickly. The Zags overcame through strong play from most everyone, especially Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, and Rui Hachimura, are now gathering the bulk of Final Four chatter after the rest of the bracket was decimated in the first weekend.
While the Zags got through the Big Ten regular season champion Ohio State Buckeyes most assumed they were set for a matchup with Big East regular season champion and region #1 seed Xavier. As this tournament has proved, seeds don’t mean anything. Despite the Musketeers dominating a large portion of the game, they fell to a late surge from the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles’ pure size created issues for both Trevon Bluiett and Quentin Goodin on the offensive end for Xavier. Florida State’s shocking win set us up with a rather interesting matchup. Florida State’s high pace offensive strategy accompanied by their length on defense versus a high powered offensive Gonzaga team.
These two teams have very differing styles, while Florida State has multiple players that play a bulk of the minutes, Gonzaga has NBA level talent that they stick with for the larger portions of the game. Determining a victor for this game is going to be about pace. Florida State has to keep this game up tempo and not let Gonzaga utilize their advantage down low. Killian Tillie and Jonathon Williams will attack the offensive glass all game, I can’t see Florida State being able to handle the power down low.
Florida State has shocked me after literally not showing up in the ACC tournament, they have turned it around defeating two teams that were highly regarded. Problem is the Zags have more players to lean on then the Seminoles have dealt with. Multiple scorers means multiple points. I have the Zags winning but I won’t bet it.
Gonzaga wins (Betting +5.5 for Florida State)
5 Kentucky Wildcats(-6) vs. 9 Kansas St. Wildcats (-6)
The Wildcat region has its second Wildcat matchup of the region, just not the one we thought we would get. Kentucky sits as the favorite remaining in the bracket, a team full of freshman is now the favorites. While they sit as the favorites they can’t loo past a battle tested Big 12 Kansas State team.
Kansas State played the role of midnight on the Cinderella of the tournament UMBC thanks to a Bryce Brown and Xavier Sneed. Leading scorer Dean Wade had to watch as his teammates pulled out a grinding victory over the upstart Retrievers. Kansas State’s perimeter defense will have to repeat its performance of the first round holding down a offensive heavy Creighton team. The purple Wildcats will look to keep the more athletic Kentucky team out of the lane. Their 20th ranked defense will have to play at that level, especially if All-Big12 Selection Dean Wade is still not able to play, Kansas State will be challenged on the offensive end.
The biggest individual reason for Kentucky’s surge has been the rise to prominence of freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA has been a swiss army knife for the young Kentucky squad averaging 18 points 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game during their current win streak. The scary part about this Kentucky team is that he may not even be the best player on the floor, freshman Kevin Knox, a potential lottery pick still has the ability to take over a game at any point.
Kentucky opens this game as a 6 point favorite, with their current hot streak and the potential injury problem for Wade this number makes sense. Wade has come out recently saying barring any setbacks he will play in the Sweet 16. If Wade plays the entire game changes. If he plays I see K-Sate covering the 6 points and even winning outright over a young Kentucky team that has limited range.
Kansas State +6 (Lean Kentucky if Wade can’t play)
7 Texas A&M vs 3 Michigan (-2.5)
Texas A&M was ranked as high as No. 5 in December after starting the season 11-1. A five-game losing streak ensued, a string of so-so play that A&M never really busted out of until the NCAA tournament. A&M brings a loaded frontcourt with Robert Williams and Tyler Davis but it has been the emergence of freshman point guard TJ Sparks that has provided the front court stability during the first two rounds. Sparks was unstoppable in the Aggies second round matchup with the vaunted North Carolina Tarheels, gashing the heels for 21points and 5 assists. Texas A&M are a dangerous team with NBA level talent, they have spent a lot of the year playing inconsistently, their 9-9 record and first round departure in the SEC tournament shows they have vulnerabilities.
Michigan enters this game on a high after the miraculous shot from freshman Jordan Poole pushed them past a very game Houston Cougars team. Michigan’s defense is elite, they are the best defensive team left in college basketball. Teams have shot 34.5 percent, but they have yet to face a team that will be working from the inside out like Texas A & M. Charles Matthews has been a key guy thus far in the Big Dance for Michigan. The Kentucky transfer leads the team with a 15.5 scoring average. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has been good on both ends, ranking No. 2 in scoring with an 11.5 average while playing good defense. Still, keep an eye on Matthews, who is hot and matches up well with the Aggies. With Michigan outmanned down low, wing players like Matthews need to excel. While I do believe Mathews will play a big role, keeping Moritz Wagner out of foul trouble will also be key for Michigan on the offensive end.
I have gone back and forth on this game. Texas A&M has a future NBA starter in Robert Williams but their inconsistencies are tough to look past against a very strong Michigan defense. I also consider John Beilien to be one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball. Michigan will suffocate the Aggies guards all day and Robert Williams talent will be matched by Wagner’s skill. Give me the Wolverines moving on and covering. If the line moves up i would be cautious.
11 Loyola Chicago Ramblers vs. 7 Nevada Wolfpack (-1.5)
Cinderella rules the South region of the NCAA tournament, where Loyola-Chicago will take on Nevada in a Sweet 16 matchup Thursday night in Atlanta.
The Ramblers and Sister Jean have stolen the hearts of the viewing public. An under estimated, in my opinion and under seeded Rambler squad play grind it out team basketball. They have multiple players that can beat you on any night. Mo Valley player of the year Clayton Custer runs the offense to perfection, moving the ball to find the defenses weakness. They have been supremely efficient in their first two games, shooting 47 percent vs a stout Miami defense and an even more astounding 50 percent against a battle tested Tennessee squad.
Nevada pulled off one of the most amazing comebacks in NCAA tournament history overcoming a 22 point deficit to defeat the Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday night. They had similar sharp shooting in their two games thus far defeated two solid defenses to get to this matchup.
Both teams have played at an elite level the first two round of this tournament, right now the line sits at a slight edge in favor of the Wolfpack. I believe most money will be going with the Ramblers as we inch closer to the tip. The Ramblers have not played a team with this kind of offensive firepower. Cody and Caleb Martin will be a tough matchup, I look for Nevada to speed up the pace and take down the Ramblers. Sorry Sister Jean it’s over.