Saturday, March 20, 2010

Picking The Lines: Day 4

Day 2 ended up being a repeat of Day 1 for me: 12-4 overall, and 8-7-1 against the spread. I actually thought that Day 2 was crazier than Day 1 in terms of upsets. Obviously Day 1 had the buzzer beaters and things like the Villanova stinker... but in the end Villanova still won. The only true surprise result on Day 1 was the Georgetown game.

I thought we had two truly bizarre games on Day 2. The first one was the Gonzaga/Florida State game, where Gonzaga had what might have been their best game in months. Gonzaga shot 50% from the field, which doesn't seem impressive until you realize that Florida State had held a remarkable 67 straight opponents below 50% shooting. They were the best defense in the nation this season, and played good defense against Gonzaga, but the Zags just could not miss. Right around the time that Matt Bouldin hit a fade-away 30 footer, followed by Florida State missing the front end of a 1-and-1, I knew that this just was not Florida State's day. The fact that this game was close in the final 30 seconds was a testament to how much better FSU is than Gonzaga. Florida State wins that game eight times out of ten. But unfortunately they didn't win when it mattered.

The other bizarre game was Georgia Tech. It's amusing to me listening to the talking heads on CBS and ESPN explaining how Georgia Tech did this or that to lead to their victory, when the answer was simply that a Georgia Tech team that had hit 64.2% from the free throw line on the season ended up hitting 24-for-25 against Oklahoma State. If they hit 64% of those shots instead of 96% then they lose. As I mentioned in the comments here, where a bunch of us were talking hoops all day, there is always one game during each NCAA tournament that just makes you so frustrated that you wonder why you even bother putting effort into your bracket since you might as well just pick names out of a hat. And watching Georgia Tech hit free throw after free throw down the stretch gave me that feeling.

Anyway, the point of this post is picking the lines. So here is my take on Sunday's games:

West Virginia (-6) over Missouri: Missouri played well in round one, but at some point the lack of talent on this team will outweigh the great system that Mike Anderson has there. If West Virginia can keep their turnover numbers lower than 15 than they should win easily.

Wisconsin (-3.5) over Cornell: I've got to ride my pick here. Wisconsin certainly looked very flat against Wofford, but they were one of many top seeded teams to come out flat. We see this often in the Tournament, and often see those teams bounce right back.

Xavier (+2.5) over Pittsburgh: Xavier looked excellent against Minnesota. They played really cool and calm against the frenetic Minnesota defense. And Pitt is a weak 3 seed that nearly lost to Montana. I wouldn't give nine points to take Pitt against Montana, and I won't give 2.5 here against Xavier. This game is a toss-up, so I'll take the points.

Purdue (Pk) over Texas A&M: I'm sticking with the pick I made before the Tournament here. Texas A&M has dominated inferior teams, and been unable to beat elite teams, all season long. And Purdue is still an elite team, even without Robbie Hummel.

Syracuse (-3.5) over Gonzaga: Syracuse didn't look good against Vermont, and so they could have real trouble against Gonzaga. But this line is too small because too many casual fans think Gonzaga is better than they really are. They needed an absolutely perfect game to get by a superior Florida State team, and a weakened Syracuse squad is lucky that Gonzaga saved them from dealing with Florida State's defense. But with a line this small you've got to be sure the game is at least a toss-up to take the points, and I still give the clear edge to Syracuse.

Duke (-6) over California: Duke's perimeter defense isn't as good as it's been in recent years, but it's still tough. And Cal doesn't have an answer for Duke's size. Can they really beat an elite team Max Zhang playing 15=20 minutes? I say no.

Ohio State (-5) over Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech will need another 24-for-25 free throw shooting night to get by a vastly superior Ohio State team.

Michigan State (+1) over Maryland: I picked Michigan State to win this game straight up earlier in the week, and I see no reason to change my pick now. Sparty had some shaky moments against New Mexico State, but they'll be more comfortable playing at Maryland's pace than New Mexico's pace.

I'll be back Saturday morning with another post to discuss the day's games. I'll see you all then.

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