Please join me in the comments to this post to chat about today's games. Here are my thoughts on the two games coming:
Saturday ATS: 1-1
Total through Saturday ATS: 38-23-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3
VCU (+11.5) over Kansas: You'll notice that I didn't include VCU on my list with Butler and UConn, and that's because VCU hasn't been lucky. Despite being by far the worst team given an at-large bid this year, they've flipped a switch and have just played great for the past four games. They put up 1.20 PPP against Georgetown and then an insane 1.43 against Purdue. Even the 0.97 PPP they put up against Florida State was impressive when you consider that FSU is (in my opinion) the clear best defense in the nation. And one thing that's really important to point out here is that the only real weakness Kansas has is ball handling (they were only 112th in the nation, and 6th in the Big 12, in offensive turnover rate), and VCU can really pressure ball handlers (they led the Colonial in both defensive turnover rate and defensive steal rate). Kansas knows that they've been handed a gift draw, particularly now that they're due to face Butler if they make the Final Four, and they're going to be very nervous about blowing it against such a wildly inferior VCU team. As poor as VCU was this year as a whole, they only lost one game by more than 12 points. I just think that spread is way too large, and honestly a win here for VCU wouldn't be any more surprising than Butler making the Final Four.
North Carolina (+1) over Kentucky: I know that Pomeroy is projecting a two point victory for Kentucky and Sagarin is projecting about a 1.5 point victory, but I strongly disagree for a few reasons. First of all, UNC's computer ratings are a bit deflated by their weak play early in the season. They've been playing their best ball lately. Despite the fact that Kentucky's gotten their best wins late in the season, from the perspective of the computers there actually hasn't been much of an improvement in Kentucky throughout the year, and they simply changed from having close unlucky losses to close lucky wins. But more importantly, Sagarin and Pomeroy do not take into account individual player match-ups, and I think there's a huge edge for UNC there. UNC will push the pace - they are averaging 73 possessions per game - and Kentucky doesn't like to run. Only three times all year did the play a Top 100 team in a game with more than 70 possessions, and they went 1-2 in those games, including that loss to North Carolina. Kentucky plays a six man rotation, and they are likely going to wear out. There's going to be huge pressure on Josh Harrellson to stay with Tyler Zeller and John Henson up-and-down the floor. If either Harrellson or Terrence Jones gets in foul trouble it's going to be a major problem. The one way Kentucky can win this game is with outside shooting. They're a better outside shooting team (although North Carolina is the better three-point defensive team), and if they can get hot then they can put up enough points to keep up with North Carolina. But Kentucky's been living off of their half court defense, and North Carolina is likely not going to give them a lot of opportunities to play half court defense. I can't see Kentucky beating North Carolina. But then again, I couldn't see Kentucky beating Ohio State, and then the Buckeyes chose to launch 20 foot contested jumpers all game and blew their chance of a National Title. With UConn getting out of the West Region, either Kentucky or North Carolina will very likely be my Final Four pick (UConn might be favored in Vegas just because they're so overrated by the public), and Kansas is the only team that will scare them on the other side of the bracket. So this game will have massive NCAA Title implications. My pick is UNC.